Monday 25 April 2016

Peter Newman asks : Where are the bodies buried?

Greta Cemetery Graves
I’ll start this post by saying I believe Dan Kelly and Steve Hart are most likely buried at the Greta Cemetery. Inspector Sadleir had released the charred bodies to the Kelly family and their friends, but there was a belief the authorities might have had a change of heart and seek to take the bodies back for the purpose of an inquest. Ian Jones’ book tells of a telegraph from the stationmaster at Benalla reporting that Hart’s brother (Richard) and about 50 armed men were at Greta intending to resist this.

A funeral was ultimately conducted at Greta Cemetery, with both bodies being reported to have been buried in a single grave. Some say the ground around the grave was then ploughed over to hide the exact location. Other commentators though have suggested that the coffins contained rocks, and that the bodies were actually buried elsewhere.

There is so much speculation. 

Some of the stories handed down by the families of sympathiser (as documented by Eugenie Navarre) suggest that Dan and Steve escaped the inferno at Glenrowan, although this seems unlikely. There are other stories that Dan was buried on the Kelly property (Gary Dean apparently knows the precise location) and that Steve was buried beneath an old fig tree on the Hart property at Wangaratta (the tree concerned fell several years ago during a storm, but the location is still known).

I have heard another story handed down through a family that had connections with Richard Hart that "the boys" were buried in a gully on the east side of the Fueller Range, not far from Glenrowan. They could have been transported to this site overland through properties owned by relatives and sympathisers (and thereby avoiding the Glenrowan Road). This story came to me from someone who I would regard as a reliable source and I have spent some time narrowing down the possible location of the gully (I found three possibilities) and viewing the earliest aerial photographs (1941) of these gullies looking for possible signs of ground disturbance. One of the possible sites has since been destroyed by the expansion of an orchard (which I’d like to think would never have been allowed to have happened if it was the one!).

As I state at the outset, I believe “the boys” are most likely buried at Greta, as much as anything because I can’t imagine how the secrecy of any alternative scenario could have been maintained. The truth could be easily confirmed if the graves at Greta were exhumed, but this is never going to happen. On the other hand, if a grave was found on the Kelly selection (probably also never going to happen), or bones found at the site of the fig tree on the former Hart property, or in one of the gullies in the Fueller Range, then maybe that would be an alternative means of arriving at the truth.
The Corfield Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia and other references (e.g. Kevin Passey) mention these alternative possibilities. So I am quite interested in what readers of this blog might have to say about these stories. Has anyone looked into this further? Has there been any ground radar analysis undertaken on the Kelly property? Has anyone investigated the fig tree location? 

Thursday 21 April 2016

Dan Kelly : Persecuted or Perjuror?

According to the list in Appendix IV of George Farwells 1970 book “Ned Kelly” – such an original title! – these are the Arrests and Convictions of  Daniel Kelly :

1871      Illegally using a horse      Wangaratta                     Discharged
1877      Stealing a saddle             Beechworth                   Discharged
1877      Wilful Damage                 Benalla                        3 months
1878      Murder and Outlawry      SBC                                 Died
                                                                                       at Glenrowan

According to modern day Kelly sympathisers, these charges against  Dan Kelly came about because he  was picked on by the corrupt police, who hounded and persecuted his whole family and their associates, turning them into Police-made criminals.

In a series of Posts I have  been testing these claims, looking for the evidence of the corrupt behavior and persecution by the Police that the Kelly sympathisers talk about.  So far my close inspections of the criminal records of Ned Kelly and his brother Jim Kelly have found precious little evidence of this. In fact I have presented evidence that even though in those days the system was harsh, and there were times at which Police behaved badly – as indeed they still do on occasion today – in the main the system treated them appropriately and in response to deliberate acts of criminality and violence.

Mike made a very telling observation in the discussion about Jim Kelly, pointing out that if the Kelly explanations of why they came into contact with the Police were true, when he changed his name to James Wilson and went to NSW, one would expect that in NSW Jim would be left alone, but of course he wasn’t.  In fact Jim quickly came to the notice of the Police for selling a stolen horse and saddle, so it would be absurd to suggest that his arrest was an example of Kelly clan persecution because the NSW Police didn’t know he was a Kelly. Sharon told us that it wasn’t until much later that Jim Wilson was exposed as Jim Kelly. So are the modern Kelly supporters going to propose that he was only ever a criminal in NSW, and was innocent in Victoria? How do they explain Jims behaviour? 

So lets look now at Daniels record. The first entry on his Charge sheet relates to an episode that I wrote about in relation to his older brother Jim. One Saturday they took a horse each, the owner complained and they rode off when told to stop. They were chased down, taken to Wangaratta Lock-Up  and discharged by the Magistrate on the Monday morning ‘on account of their age’ Dan was 10 and Jim 12. Is it persecution for Police to try to recover stolen property?  Of course not! Was it overkill and persecution to lock them up? Probably not in those times, when rigid discipline  and corporal punishment of children was regarded as a Christian duty. But yes, today it would be overkill, in my opinion.

Dans next court appearance was in relation to a saddle that had been reported stolen from a Benalla Hotel in May 1876. It was located on Dans horse but in Court he produced a receipt for £1 that he paid to ‘a man called Roberts’. Ned claimed to know this man, Roberts , and tried to find him, “alas, to no avail” as Peter Fitzsimons so regretfully tells it!

Once again we have the marvelous resource of Troves digitized newspaper Collection to thank for an exact copy of the Court report in the local newspaper:

Ovens and Murray Advertiser
Thursday March 1st 1877
Beechworth General Sessions
Wednesday 28th February
Before his Honor Judge Hacket
Mr Armstrong appeared as Crown Prosecutor

Daniel Kelly was charged with stealing a saddle at Benalla, and pleaded not guilty.

Mr F. Brown appeared for the defence.

The following jury were sworn
Robert Rae (foreman), John Carew, R.Douglass, Edward Keogh, J. Stephens, Christopher Kibble, Edwin Ansell, Geo. Cross, William Duncan, Henry Wiseman, Thomas Sutherland, and John Ewing.

Sidney Smith, a woolstaker, residing at Benalla, Deposed that he had a saddle on the 4th of May last. Left it in the back kitchen of the Liverpool Arms
about seven o'clock in the evening. Shut the door, and missed it the next morning. Identified the saddle produced by a seam which he had objected to on
purchasing it, and by other marks.

Edward Shortell, a saddler at Benalla, deposed that he sold the saddle produced to prisoner over two years ago.

Mounted-constable Robinson deposed that he was at Benalla on the 30th of December, but was stationed at Richmond at present. Saw prisoner that day with the saddle produced. Asked him about the saddle. He first said he had bought it from one man, and afterwards from another.

By Mr F. Brown : It was five months from the time witness heard of the saddle being stolen until the arrest. Prisoner did not refuse to go with witness to see about the saddle. Prisoner gave two different accounts of how he came by the saddle. He produced a receipt subsequently at the police court.

This closed the case for the prosecution.

John Lloyd lived on the Kilfera road, and knew the accused and was present at Eleven Mile Creek, where he dealt in a saddle with a man named Roberts.
Prisoner gave Roberts a saddle and £1,and got another saddle in exchange. This happened at Skinner's.

Witness was one of the witnesses to the receipt produced.

By the Crown Prosecutor : Skinner was prisoner's brother-in-law. Witness was prisoner's cousin.
Wm. Skinner knew the accused. Remembered a transaction about saddles at his house between the accused and Roberts, and they exchanged saddles,
prisoner giving Roberts £1 to boot. Roberts wrote the receipt. Edward Kelly, brother of the accused, knew Roberts, and had tried to find him for the purpose of this trial. Was present when the saddles were exchanged, and saw a receipt like the one produced,
drawn out.

His Honor, in charging the jury, said he did not see why the prisoner was there at all. He had given a perfectly valid account of how lie had come to be in pos
session of the saddle, and the whole of the evidence corroborated that account.
Verdict : Not Guilty.
The accused was discharged

What this remarkable report shows is the exact opposite of the Kelly myth about the poor Kellys being persecuted by an unjust system!  Instead we have a Court process that is scrupulously fair, even when the defendant changes his story, the witnesses for the defense are the relatives and friends of the accused, and the mysterious Mr Roberts has disappeared without trace. But there never seemed to be any doubt that Sydney Smiths saddle was stolen and it ended up on Dan Kellys horse. I am not sure what a ‘woolstaker’ is but somehow I think Sidney Smith wasn’t a squatter but an ordinary  member of the poorer working class, the sort of people Ned Kelly was supposed to be the champion of.  Nobody knew it then, but Ned Kelly in 1877 was a major crime figure in the region, fully engaged in his ‘wholesale and retail’ horse stealing racket, an  activity that treated the Law with contempt and involved the creation of false identities, false documents and forged signatures, the very techniques that I would guess he employed here to get Dan off the hook. Who suspects that he and Ned and the other witnesses perjured themselves, that Mr Roberts was a fantasy and the Receipt for £1 was a Forgery?  Peter Fitzsimons obviously does! And so do I, but of course without evidence, who can be sure? And so, Dan was found Not Guilty! His treatment was better than fair, it was lenient and generous in the face of considerable doubt.

You know, this case shows how deeply hypocritical it was for Ned Kelly to claim in the Jerilderie Letter that ‘there was never such a thing as justice to be found in the English Laws but any amount of injustice’, and suggests how very wrong this entire Kelly myth about Police and Judicial corruption and persecution is.  Here is a case, in 1877 of the Police and the Judicial system abiding strictly and perfectly to the letter of the Law, in a case that if the 'persecuted Kellys' story were true would have been the easiest of all to turn into a conviction and a prison sentence. In fact  the corruption was Ned Kellys,  the perjurer and the forger of signatures and fake documents, the self confessed thief, a thoroughly dishonest villain who gamed the system to circumvent justice being meted out to his brother. And lets also not forget the hypocrisy of the man who claimed to be the champion of the poor, here aiding and abetting his brother stealing from the poor,and escaping Justice. And just over a year later these proven thieves, liars, forgers and hypocrites were proclaiming Fitzpatrick was the crook and their sweet innocent selector selves were being maligned and vilified unfairly.  

The closer I look at the Kellys and the historical truths about the Outbreak, the more the Mythology is revealed as a flimsy cover-up and  I see a villain and a brood of criminals.

Is there ANYONE who wishes to defend them ? So far it seems almost  nobody dares.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

The Last Kelly Warrior and the Ayatollah Khomeini

Ian Jones the last true Kelly Warrior?
As I mentioned to Mark Perry recently, I am working my way through a book he recommended called ‘Ned Kellys Last Days’ by Alex Castles.   Its subtitle is “Setting the record straight on the death of an Outlaw. I will Post my review in due course, its not done yet,  but in my search for the opinions of others about this book I came across this quote from Ian Jones : “ It is poisonously inaccurate, and if that is setting the record straight, I am the Ayatollah Khomeini”

This quote is from an article in The Age newspaper of August 5th 2005 which was reporting on the upcoming Ned Kelly Weekend, at which event Ian Jones was planning to publicly condemn this new book because according to him it is "marked by persistent vilification of Ned Kelly — unbalanced to the point of psychosis …"
Elsewhere, on the Iron Outlaw website from around 2002,  I came across this quote from Ian Jones :“Alex McDermott wants to read into the Jerilderie Letter that “the true, murderous, implacable, brooding intent of Ned Kelly is revealed”. Bullshit. I know it’s bullshit. If I said to you “pull your head in while it’s still attached”, you wouldn’t run off to the police and say “Ian Jones said he was going to chop my head off”. It’s just childish.”

What I find interesting about these  quotes is that they illustrate the way in which Ian Jones was such an outstanding and uncompromising spokesperson for what he believed was the truth about Ned Kelly, what I call the Kelly Mythology. Ian Jones was of course a Kelly scholar second to none, so he was eminently qualified to be that spokesperson, but not all scholars would be as willing as he was to go on the Public record to defend their views. He was the ‘go-to’ man for everything to do with Ned Kelly, never short of an opinion or information or a yarn about any aspect of Kelly history. He wrote books, and film scripts, he was interviewed for documentaries, quoted in the Press and on TV, consulted about the authenticity of photographs, guns, armour, the Kelly tree, the latest Kelly movies, historical precincts, works of art, exhibitions, skeletons, he opened Kelly museums and exhibitions ….the list is endless. He was an incredible asset to the entire Kelly community, and looking back on his lifetimes work, its pretty clear to me that without him the Kelly legends wouldn’t have anything like the status that they have been enjoying till recently. All people interested in the Kelly story, from every side of the debate owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

But now he has gone. 

To my knowledge, Ian Jones  last public appearance was to launch his little book on the Kellys and Beechworth in 2014, and he has apparently since expressed a perfectly understandable wish to be left alone, because of his advancing age and health issues. Before that though he had already more or less removed himself from the public stage, becoming deafeningly silent in no more obvious a place than in his lack of response to Ian MacFarlanes book “The Kelly Gang Unmasked”.   Compare that to his explosive remarks about McDermott and about Castles books! Where once he  would be in the news attacking and denouncing anyone and anything that looked like it might be a threat to the legends of his beloved Ned Kelly, suddenly, just as the first credible and sustained attack was launched on them for decades, he went silent.  Now I know there are many who think this Blog is all about promoting ‘that book’, and that I am somehow connected to it but the Blog isn’t and I am not. But its simply a fact that MacFarlanes book was a massive challenge to the established Kelly myths that Ian Jones developed and had promoted for all of his working life, and beyond.  Publication of The Kelly Gang Unmasked presented a radical review of the Kelly story but as far as I am aware Ian Jones uttered not a single Public word on the subject, even though we know he read it because he told Peter Fitzsimons that he hated it and he advised him not to read it. But he never made a public defence of the things it so directly challenged or even say why he didn’t respond to it.  Perhaps he was hoping someone else would.

Interestingly enough, in the same conversation where Jones attacked McDermotts  view of the Jerilderie Letter in 2001, he went on to say this: “Just you watch, the next wave of Kelly scholarship is going to be revisionist. There will be people like this McDermott character falling over one another to say “all this is wrong, Ned Kelly was really a dreadful person, a cold-blooded killer and a coward”. Gradually, they will try to regain the ogre that was portrayed back in 1880. Just for the sake of saying something different, making a buck, making a reputation

In the IO Interview he said this: “Certain people will continue to chip away at Ned and try to drag him down. But it’s like trying to destroy Uluru (Ayers Rock) by crashing a Tiger Moth into it. There might be a big bang and a great ball of flame, but there’s not going to be any Tiger Moth left. It’ll leave a little mark that will wither away in no time and Uluru will still be there.” Quite a wonderful and funny analogy which had me laughing, and typical of the uncompromising Mr Jones.

But now he has gone. The age of Ian Jones being the Kelly ‘go-to’ guy has ended and it seems there is no one to replace him. No one to take on Ian MacFarlane.  No one to take on Doug Morrissey. And no one to take me on either.  The tactic instead has mostly been to go to ground, to stay quiet and hope that we all go away - the very opposite of what Ian Jones always did. He was more like Ned Kelly, willing to speak his mind and take on the opposition whatever the odds.  He went on Radio and debated McDermott. The new breed are more like the nameless sympathisers who supposedly hung about in the shadows at Glenrowan, watching their hero get smashed, too scared to lend a hand, and then when it was obvious where it was heading they all disappeared.  They’ve admitted in their Forums that trying to defend the Legends against the exposures of this Blog has failed: "going in to bat for Ned will be in vain. Continue to do so will prove more disastrous than what we are currently experiencing.”  300 days Ive been waiting for one of them to make good on his loud-mouth promise to debunk the Lonigan killing. So maybe theyre all hoping a new “Go-to” Kelly guy will emerge and do their battles for them, but without Mr Jones, they are mostly in retreat, waving the white flag.

Never-the-less,  some have obviously seen the big hole and tried to at least partly fill it. The Ned Kelly Center was an attempt to fill that space, but it has more or less disappeared without trace after losing a cyber war with Ned Kelly Central. The Center  was run by Kelly descendant Joanne Griffiths who it seems long ago alienated huge sections of the Kelly community, and her grand plan to Crowd-source 8 million dollars to build the NK Centre flopped spectacularly with barely one thousand dollars pledged!  Their long ago promised Website has failed to appear. Their modest rival ‘ NK Central’ isn’t trying to raise money or be anything other than a Facebook community and is run by someone who remains Anonymous but is pretty obviously a prominent member of the rival Kelly faction. Like all Kelly places, except for this Blog, on NK Central they like to discuss  peripheral issues and newspaper reports rather than the ‘Central’ issues about Ned Kelly, which are completely ignored. Theres no questioning of the basic beliefs of the Kelly mythology, such as whether or not Ned was a villain, or Australias Robin Hood, or if the Kellys were hounded and persecuted. They are like Scientologists who are happy to discuss the minutiae of their belief that humans are reincarnated aliens from other planets but never discuss the horrible character of  their founding figurehead L Ron Hubbard, a fantasy writer and fraudster; to do that could lead them to the realisation that the entire Scientology narrative centred on a madman and is made-up nonsense. At least Kelly sympathisers admit Kelly might not have been a hero and instead might have been a villain - the problem though is that they only ever want to talk about the hero. 

All the other Kelly places on the internet are either dead or on life support. Like everyone else I hardly ever visit the IO or the NKF Websites anymore because NOTHING is happening there. Ive been banned from all the usual Facebook Kelly sites, not for what I posted  but for who I am. Other Kelly Forums have either disappeared or are for Members ONLY and one isn’t accepting new members! - so that one will eventually vanish unless they change their Policy. The Beechworth Ned Kelly Weekend has collapsed. The Ned Kelly Centre is history!

I would guess that Ian Jones must be pretty disappointed that once he stepped back from the fray there was nobody  able or prepared to try to take his place and stick up for Ned except on Facebook. The massive fantasy edifice that he created and sustained almost singlehandedly for decades is crumbling before his eyes, because he no longer has the energy to battle on, and nobody is stepping up to the mark to carry on from where he left off.  His prediction that the next wave of scholarship would be revisionist has come true, despite his best efforts and he was  right to see that the ‘ogre’ of the 1800’s would return. But he was wrong in his cynical prediction that this would happen   “Just for the sake of saying something different, making a buck, making a reputation”. The reason we are going back to the ogre of the 1800’s is because the mask he created for Ned to hide behind - and which, by the way made Ian a very tidy buck and a considerable reputation - has fallen off, and the ogre behind Ians Happy Face is exposed for what he always was, once again. But this time, theres nobody like Ian to put it back on for him and hide him behind a fable again. There are no Kelly warriors anymore. The Kelly myth is in its death throes.

Friday 8 April 2016

Jim Kelly: violent thief goes back to Gaol

The Entrance to the Darlinghurst Gaol
At the very heart of the Kelly story is a belief that it was Police persecution that drove Ned Kelly to the extremes that he went to, and that if it wasn’t for Police and Judicial harassment and corruption, the Outbreak would never have happened.  This of course is the tired refrain of every criminal that ever lived, but the Kelly sympathizer mob would have us believe that THIS TIME it really is true! The Kellys were innocent and the Police are to be blamed.

Last year on this Blog I reviewed all of Ned Kelly’s recorded charges and convictions, looking for the evidence for this belief, that they were unjustified, inappropriate, corrupt or in any way suggestive of unfair Police harassment of Ned Kelly -  and I didn’t find it. Now I am doing the same thing to the recorded charges and convictions centered on Ned’s brother Jim. So far what I have found is much the same as what I found last year – inaccurate and biased story telling by the pro-Kelly lobby, actual criminal activity by the Kellys and mostly appropriate and at times even sympathetic responses by the Authorities. In none of the discussions that followed these Posts has anyone challenged my findings.

So far, I have reviewed two of the items on Jims charge sheet, and both demonstrate the system, albeit a pretty harsh one acting quite reasonably towards him : the  entirely appropriate charge of Illegally using a horse was dismissed on account of his age, and 2 years later a sentence of 3 years hard labour for stock theft ended a year early, presumably for good behavior, as the rules permit.

Now we come to the next item on Jim Kellys charge sheet. He was only a few months out of Gaol and now in NSW where it seems he changed his name to Jim Wilson. He and a companion, Tom Manly stole two horses and saddles and sold them while on their way to the Snowy Mountains, according to Ian Jones.

Here is the newspaper report of their arrest at Kiandra : read it and ask yourself as you do so if this report fits with the Kelly myth that Jim was an innocent victim of Police harassment :

The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser
(NSW : 1871 – 1912)
Saturday 23rd June 1877

The Kiandra correspondent of the Monaro Mercury, under date
June 1, gives the particulars of the arrest of Wilson and Manly as follows :

These two men made their appearance on Sunday, 27th ultimo, and gave out that they were cattle buyers. It was only on Thursday evening at 9 o clock, that senior-constable Smythe got information that the two men were wanted. He found them at Mr. Chapman's in a small apartment off the dining room, Messrs. Chap man and Abraham Thomas being in the same room. Smythe stood at the door and told the two strangers that he arrested them on a charge of horse-stealing. Both men immediately arose and remarked, " Let us go outside."

Smythe said, " Not without these on," producing the handcuffs. Wilson, a young man standing six feet high, and very powerful, rushed at Smythe, dealing him a tremendous blow beneath the eye and knocking him out of the doorway into the next room. Smythe and Wilson then closed. In the meantime, Chapman and Thomas having been called upon to assist seized the other man, and after a long struggle they got him down on the floor. During all this time Smythe and Wilson were fighting most determinedly, the latter having got hold of a Iong brass candlestick, with which the ruffian beat Smythe severely about the head, inflicting no less than seven ugly wounds. Blood was flowing from Smythe in streams, completely blinding him. At last the constable got his revolver to bear, but it missed fire. A second time the revolver was presented, and it went on but missed Wilson.

At this stage of the desperate encounter, Chapman having got Manly down, Thomas went to Smythes assistance, and they succeeded in encircling Wilsons wrists with the handcuffs.  

Wilson "a stalwart and most desperate scoundrel',would certainly have taken Smythe's life,had he been able, and he has repeatedly expressed his regret that he did not succeed in so doing. The prisoners hail from Victoria. After the fight was over. Smythe was almost smothered with blood, with which the floor of the room was also covered. The candle stick used by Wilson was broken in two, and there was blood and hair adhering to the pieces. Smythe says he could feel himself getting very weak from loss of blood during the struggle, which necessitated the bringing of his pistol into service. Using his revolver as a bludgeon, Smythe endeavoured to knock Wilson down with it, but the desperado was too strong for him. 

These men were just in readiness to start for the road, and had Smythe been half an hour later, he would have lost them. The telegram authorizing Smythe to arrest the pair, did not arrive till half-past 8 o'clock p.m. Smythe exhibited great pluck when wrestling with his athletic antagonist, and acted nobly in sticking to him until Thomas came to his assistance. Wilson regrets that he could not get his knife into play, as otherwise the ruffian says he would have stabbed Smythe. All concerned in the capture deserve the greatest praise. We think there must be in Victoria some charge of a very serious nature pending against these two men, or else they would not have made such a stand to prevent their arrest. Prisoners were very violent after being locked up, but I think the low temperature of an Alpine night cooled them down before morning.

Only a blind fool would argue this incident was caused by the Police, who in this case were from NSW. Whatever Jim may have become in later life, theres little doubt that at 18 he was a violent criminal, and if we are to believe this account  he very nearly became the first Kelly to murder a Policeman. 

According to Ian Jones , Jim was sentenced to Four years hard labour,  served at the Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney.  He would have been due for release in 1881, by which time the outbreak would have been over. However, even though the hunt for the gang was in full swing in 1880, Jim was once again given an early release, and set free in January 1880. Now 21 and at last showing some signs of having learned his lessons, perhaps in part because of the hangings that took place at Darlinghurst, Jim urged the Gang to disband and disburse to other states, but Ned wouldn’t agree : 'Ned was committed to the rebellion’ said Tom Lloyd Jr to Ian Jones in 1979.

It seems Jim played no part in the Gangs activities, though he apparently turned up at Glenrowan behind Police lines, and was prominent afterwards  in the struggle to gain a reprieve for Ned. 

We have already touched on Jims life after the Outbreak, but it included yet another conviction for horse stealing, in 1881. This time the sentence was 5 years hard labour on the roads, but it was the last time he was ever convicted of anything and as Mark Perry rightly says he eventually got his shit together. But is there any evidence in the criminal career of the younger Jim Kelly of unfair Police harassment and corruption that drove him to it?

I don’t see it. In fact what I see is a kid growing up in an environment of lawlessness and criminality, surrounded by dreadful role models , inevitably being drawn into a life of crime but as Mark also said, fortuitously being in prison when the worst excesses of the Outbreak were occurring. Jim had a lucky escape after some early foolish mistakes and made good in later life, even though he remained a prisoner to the mesmeric effects of his big brothers delusions of grandeur. 

Looking again at that Photo of the well-dressed Jim and horse in later life, I wondered if the dapper old Bachelor was just a misunderstood horse-lover? There were other speculations that suggested themselves to me about Jims character - he may have had  some secrets that made his life rather tragic in more ways than one.

Monday 4 April 2016

Jim Kelly gets his shit together...or does he?

According to Sharon this is NOT a photo of Jim and his mother at 11 Mile ! And I believe her.
This is supposed to be  Jim Kelly but I am not sure what the mans name is. 
Mark Perry told us that in the end, Jim Kelly got  “his shit together” and by all accounts, because of his devotion to his mother and some of her grandchildren,  gained a measure of respect for the way he conducted himself.  However it would be wrong to think that once the “Outbreak” ended he became a model citizen, and repudiated the  lifestyle and the whole Kelly saga. In fact, only a year after Ned was hanged Jim was convicted yet again of horse stealing in NSW in 1881 and sentenced to 5 years hard labour. Much later, in August  1912, aged 53,  he was charged yet again with cattle stealing – I am not sure what the outcome of that was but I suspect he was discharged, so perhaps I oughtn’t cast aspersions! Can anyone tell us?

However in 1930, now 71, Jim Kelly wrote a letter to J.J.Kenneally congratulating him on his recently published work, ‘The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang’ defiantly declaring that J.J.Kenneallys book completely vindicated the Kelly family. Jim expresses not a single word of remorse or of apology or regret for the actions of the Kelly Gang or his brothers, saying instead that they had been “hounded’ by the Police.  For Jim to still maintain after all those years of opportunity to reflect on all that happened, that being on the “Wanted” list after killing three Police is being ‘hounded,’ is absolutely ridiculous.  This is a staggering lack of insight! Heres something else that’s ridiculous that he wrote : “My brother Ned holds a very unique position among the great men of the world’ and ‘you have proved that my brother Ned Kelly was proclaimed the greatest man in the word by his bitterest enemy’. Or in other words it wasn’t our fault , there was nothing wrong with Ned, it was the Police – and that of course is also the theme of Kenneallys book, and the central myth of the Outbreak that persists to this day. Jim was in denial it would seem till the day he died  (and I am afraid so are many members of the greater Kelly community even today! )

Never-the-less the question of possible Police persecution is the focus of this Post, the previous one and  a few more to come. I have already shown how Jim's first charge, at age 12 for illegally using a horse is misrepresented in the Kelly literature, and doesn’t really look like an example of Police persecution, but what about the second?

On this occasion, in 1873 when Jim was  14, he was convicted of  stealing cattle. He did this in the company of  17 year old Tom Williams who was said to have led Jim into it. Ian Jones called this theft ‘inept’ . The Jury recommended leniency,  but Jim was sentenced to five years hard labour by a Judge who is reported to have said he regretted he couldn’t also have ordered they be flogged!

Peter Fitzsimons made note of the fact that Jim was ‘undefended’ and  claimed that the sentence was  ‘one of the most severe sentences for one of that age in Victoria ever recorded’ and asked “If that is not persecution of his family, what is?”

Well this is the actual Press report from The North Eastern Ensign dated April 22nd 1873:

Thursday, April 17. 
(Before Mr. Justice Williams.)

Mr. C. A. Smyth conducted the prosecutions on behalf of the Crown.

Thomas Williams, 17, and James Kelly, 14, were in-
dicted for stealing two heifers, the property of George
Chandler, of Winton. The prisoners were undefended
by counsel. The evidence of the prosecutor and several
witnesses was conclusive of their guilt, and a verdict to
that effect was returned, with a recommendation to
mercy on account of their youth. The same prisoners
were also found guilty of stealing two steers, the pro-
perty of James Cook, of Winton, and were sentenced to
five years imprisonment each.

So was this sentence  proof that the family was being persecuted?

Well, being arrested and charged couldn’t be called ‘persecution’ if a genuine crime had been committed – and theres no doubt Jim and Tom Williams stole several head of cattle and sold them.  And though five years does seem harsh to modern ears,  in those days people were transported for less  - Jims own father got seven years and was transported for stealing two Pigs! – so even the sentence may not have been that harsh for the time.  On the other hand, perhaps the Magistrate was aware of his older brothers convictions for  indecency, assault, and horse stealing, his uncles various  convictions, and the convictions of various other Kelly associates, and decided that a sharp and severe shock might achieve what the lenient treatment he received after he was charged for illegal using two years before didn't. We have no insight into the reasons for the Magistrates  decision but there are plenty of good reasons why it couldn’t have been mere persecution of an innocent family, because for one thing, that family was not innocent. There were any number of good reasons why he would have easily been able to justify a penalty at the harsher end of the spectrum of options that he had, not withstanding his young age and the suggestion of the Jury.  I also note that there is no mention of the Judge wishing he could have ordered Jim get a flogging, and neither Jones nor Fitzsimons provide a reference that supports that claim so I wonder  where it comes from?  I also wonder if Jim was unrepresented because, as the news report states “the evidence of the prosecutor and several witnesses was conclusive of their guilt’. Why would they waste money on legal costs if the outcome was a forgone conclusion?

Frankly if that’s the best example Peter Fitzsimons can provide as evidence that the family was persecuted, he hasn’t got a case. And if there was any question about it, here’s a final fact that settles it : Jim was released at the beginning of 1877, more than a year early. How can that be persecution?

Maybe  we will find evidence of Police persecution in Jims next experience with the Law? It happened only a few months after the last one.