Friday 27 May 2016

I have a few issues to discuss...

I don’t have a Post ready to go onto the Blog yet, because Ive been busy with other things. I do actually have a life thats separate from reading and writing abut Ned Kelly and I do stop to ‘smell the roses’ from time to time Mark! Now that Ive picked off all the places where its easy to expose the myths in the Kelly story, I am left with the subjects that require a bit more thought and reading around. It takes time...

What everyone has probably noticed , and I certainly have, is that often  the comments and discussions that follow the Posts that I make are not actually about the main subject of the Post, but about some peripheral issue that springs up. I find this frustrating as I have never believed I have all the answers, and am interested in what others think about the actuall thing Ive written about, whether they be corrections or additional background makes me wonder sometimes why I take the time to develop an argument that then gets ignored. But any discussion is usually good to have...

So this time I am going to pose a few of the questions about Kelly mythology that have been in the back of my mind lately, things I will eventually make a Post about but maybe before I do, others can contribute their thoughts and I can be the one doing the responding:

1. McIntyre is routinely said to have committed perjury because he is supposed to have contradicted himself in the various statements he made regarding what happened at SBC. Its rare however to find someone go to the trouble of juxtaposing his various statements and pointing out exactly what this perjury was. I want to do that and see if it really looks like perjury or the variations in an account that almost anyone would make trying to explain a complex drama in a few words.

2. Much is made of the Petition that was circulated in Melbourne pleading for Ned Kellys’ life to be spared. Was this really about Ned Kelly or about Capital punishment, something that Gaunson, one of Ned Kellys defence  representatives was well known to be passionate about?

3. Much is made of the arrival of a Constable Graham in the North East after Ned Kellys execution, the suggestion being that replacing all the bad cops with a good cop was one of the main reasons the outbreak ended.  This is advanced as a support to the ‘corrupt police’ origin of the whole thing. Another reason usually given is the Royal Commission, again reinforcing the bad cops notion. I am going to suggest the biggest and most important reason by FAR was the removal of the real source of all this violence and criminality : Ned Kelly himself. Take him out of the place and everything settled down.

4. What kind of person kills a man, steals his watch then shows it to people, as Ned did with Kennedys watch to various people at Euroa ( or was it Jerilderie...or both?) This is creepy stuff if you ask me.

5. Much is made of Neds rescue of Richard Shelton when he was nine, and the Green sash he was given as a reward. Nobody disputes that story, but I have no doubt in my mind that it has been embellished and exaggerated as all good stories are. But the story is told as some kind of proof that Ned Kelly was a terrific bloke for all the rest of his life - as if the kind of person you are at nine predicts the kind of person you will be after your father dies of alcoholism leaving everyone destitute, after puberty has wrought its magic on your expanding consciousness and the quest for meaning, after you’ve been apprentice to a Bushranger and become accustomed to sticking a gun in peoples faces and robbing them, however ‘politely’.  I give credit to Ned for saving Richard - he earned that sash. The tragedy is that this generous brave 9 year old gave in to the darker side of his nature and became a menace to society. 

Your thoughts please.

Friday 20 May 2016

Two Years and 100,000 Visits later….

Its now exactly two years since this Blog started. Given that my two earlier attempts to provide an alternative to Kelly worship on the Internet had been sabotaged, I wasn’t sure how long this one would last, but here we are , two years later still going strong as the other places have mostly crumbled into irrelevancy. I cant claim all the credit for their demise but I am sure 'Death of the Legend Blog'  has contributed - its the only place in the world where challenging serious in-depth discussions about the Kelly story are taking place. The only two places still viable are Facebook pages. The Vault FB page and NK Central FB page are surviving because they have realised Kelly mythology is on the way out and they have adapted,  and begun to tolerate, if not promote suggestions that there might be another side to the kelly story. IO and the NKF haven’t adapted, and remain fixed in their belief that Kelly was a hero, the Police were to blame for everything that happened, and so like dinosaurs trapped in a swamp of their own making have died and are now virtually extinct. Their mythology is now becoming a historical curiosity.

Over the last two years I have learned two things about the Kelly world that particularly amazed me : the first was how little effort was needed to see through the Kelly myths, and the second was how unwilling Kelly sympathisers are to defend the essentials of their beliefs about Ned Kelly – apart from Fitzy of course, who at least made an attempt. However even he gave up almost a year ago, after antagonizing everyone else in the Kelly world with his  embarrassing failures.

The problem for Kelly sympathizers is that its inherently very difficult for them to defend something that’s easy to expose as a myth. Take Ned Kelly’s claim to have fired once and killed Lonigan: its easy to show that’s a lie because of the 4 bullet wounds in Lonigans body. To argue the opposite is much more difficult - that is why in less than a month we will have been waiting an entire year for Fitzy to make good on his claim to have worked out the way in which Ned Kellys single shot left Lonigan dead with four bullet wounds. Its just too difficult. He can’t do it.

Its easy to show that Ned Kelly was NOT Australias Robin Hood, because for one thing, as well as robbing from the rich - who inevitably had more things to steal - he robbed from the poor when they had something he wanted. For another, the only people who received money from him were people who were prepared to support and protect him, and they were mostly family and the closest friends.  Their poverty was beside the point but in typically misleading fashion the Kelly myth pretends it was everything. How hard can it be for Kelly sympathisers to defend the idea that Ned was Australia’s Robin Hood when Ian Jones posted a photo of Joe Byrne’s mother in a ‘fashionable dress undoubtedly bought with  proceeds of the Euroa or Jerilderie robberies’?  When the only records of  who was paying off debts and buying new clothes and saddlery after the Bank raids were Kelly family? Not a good look for the Robin Hood of Australia.

Its easy to show by looking carefully at each of the items on the charge sheets of Ned Kelly, of Dan Kelly and Jim Kelly, that police harassment and persecution was insignificant, and that the Kellys were NOT ‘police-made criminals’ as they claim. Its hard for the Kelly sympathisers to defend the idea that Kelly became what he did as a result of Police persecution when the police instruction that they claim proves their case wasn’t issued until 1877, and when you read it carefully it actually advocated leaving the Kellys alone. Its hard for the  Kelly sympathisers to claim the Kellys were persecuted unfairly when you discover how often charges against them were dropped, they received the benefit of often considerable doubt, sentences were remitted, and due process was followed to the letter of the law. Its hard for them to claim their arrests were Police harassment of them because they were Kellys, when Jim was arrested in NSW when he was living under an assumed name, Jim Wilson. Its hard for them to claim the Police had a policy of harassment from way back, when in the years that  Ned Kelly was supposed to be living inside the Law and working in legitimate employment, there is absolutely no record of any kind of police ‘harassment’ whatsoever. This historical fact makes it clear that those years when Ned Kelly went straight, he was left alone – the exact opposite of what would be expected if the Kelly myth about Kelly persecution was correct.  But it isn’t and the Kelly sympathisers cant and don’t defend it – its just too hard.

Seeing through the myth of the Republic of North East Victoria was child’s play. For a start Ned Kelly never ever mentioned it, and neither did any of his family or friends and supporters.  Not only that, Ned did actually say what motivated him – history writing is going to become impossible if it follows the lead of Kelly mythmakers who are suggesting that what REALLY motivated Ned was something he never mentioned, and NOT what he actually did mention. People have read ‘republican’ meanings into a very few words from the volumes of words that Ned spoke and wrote, and say that’s evidence but they’re clutching at straws.  They say nothing was said openly because it was  treason and a capital offence– but many other organisations and political activists had talked about it and not been executed! Another claimed ‘evidence’ for it is a rumour that some letters were taken from Ned at Glenrowan, and they may have included a statement about a Republic. It was supported by a claim that someone realized some time after seeing a document in the British Museum that it was actually a Declaration of a Republic of North east Victoria, but in 50 years of looking no-one else has ever seen it. The republic idea relies on stories told by an old man who admitted he would make things up to satisfy the people who pestered him with questions about the Outbreak, and he gave conflicting stories to different people. How can they defend a story based on ambiguous words in the Jerilderie letter, documents seen by one person fifty years ago and by nobody since, rumours and the memory of unreliable old men? Its just too hard, so they look the other way when I mention it on the Blog.

But its not just the big themes of the Kelly story that are fabrications. I have been amazed at how many minor details of the Kelly story  collapse with the slightest scrutiny. Theres one  about Kellys two day trial being rushed through – this claim was aired as long ago as 1967 at the famous Symposium on Ned Kelly where the Republic idea was revitalized. But  even though the idea that the trial was rushed was disproved at the symposium, its been repeated at every opportunity and parroted by every self appointed Kelly expert ever since. Remarkably, in the Beechworth Courthouse which every Kelly devotee makes a Pilgrimage to at least once in their life, visitors are informed that Murder trials lasted as little as half an hour on occasion. So much Kelly myth is just pure misinformation.

Ned Kelly is often paraded as some sort of innovator when it came to the style of his Bank robberies. Much is made of the fact that no shots were fired, hostages were given drink and food, and Ned Kelly treated women like a true gentleman. In fact these methods were copied from the style of other bushrangers of the time. – the “gentleman bushranger’ Harry Power was one of Neds earliest influences.  The technique was to parade yourself as friend of the poor bloke, avoid antagonising the mass of the ordinary people because you are going to need them later to give you food, shelter and intelligence about Police movements. As for firing no shots, this is simple testimony to the fear that was engendered by his notorious record of already having killed three policemen. Who was going to defy the same man waving a gun in their face? 

Sentimental nonsense is frequently written about Neds relationship with his mother. He is said to have been a devoted son, and he often claimed his hatred of the police originated from their treatment of her.  Despite Neds talk, in 1877 when Nicolson visited his mothers home, he found she was living in poverty and squalor, at the very time Ned was raking it in as a successful horse thief. He described himself as a ‘rambling gambler’ and was renowned for dressing in smart clothes and custom made expensive boots, travelling about the Colony partying, gambling and living it up when his mothers selection was neglected and she was living in squalor and poverty.  How can they defend the Kelly legend that Ned Kelly was a devoted son against facts like these? Its too hard, so they don’t.

Another one of the Kelly myths that dissolves readily if inspected closely, is the claim that the planning and execution of the robberies at Euroa and Jerilderie show that Ned would have made a great General.   These two successful Bank raids were the result of  Ned copying what other Bushrangers had done before him. Glenrowan, where he became a bit more adventurous and did his own thing was a disaster from the very start, when the vital element of secrecy was destroyed when Ned and Steve were forced to get help to rip up the railway line. The success of the whole plan was dependant on Police responding in certain ways and within a certain timeframe - critical elements beyond Neds control, elements that a real General would have eliminated so that he always had the upper hand. The iconic armour, Neds ‘greatest' achievement was so heavy and cumbersome it virtually immobilised the wearers, severely restricted their vision and ultimately proved useless, as Joe Byrne was overheard admitting during the siege. Once Police realised there was body armour hidden under Neds coat, they simply shot his legs out from under him. Any General who designed armour with such massive design faults, and a siege  which ended with three gang members dead and the General himself  on Death Row would never be called brilliant.   

What the Kelly devotees are hoping is that I will go away. They’ve destroyed some of my early endeavors to expose the myth in the real world, they’ve kicked me off  or made me most unwelcome on all their Forums and Facebook pages, they’ve attacked  and abused me on their own Forums, they’ve  tried to ignore me, expose me, block me from viewing their sites and even threatened to ‘visit' me (believeing they know who I am and where I live) The irony of course is that while they’ve been doing this, their own sites have collapsed and this Blog has bloomed! All they have left is to either defend their mythology, or bury their head in the sand and wait for me to go away. The easy choice is to bury their heads in the sand, so that’s what they’re doing. The other choice, to defend their mythology, is too hard. And would fail.

Sunday 15 May 2016

Dan goes to Gaol; Two Kelly Myths sink

Ian Jones called Chapter 7 of his Kelly  biography “The Fitzpatrick Mystery” because there were so many conflicting accounts given of what took place when Fitzpatrick was at the Kelly homestead on Monday April 15th 1878 it became almost impossible to work out what really happened. 

In the preceeding Chapter 6, titled “The Whitty larceny”, he wrote of another mystery, the “mysterious fracas with Mrs Amelia Goodman” Its another one of those events that’s been confused by so many conflicting accounts that its hard to be sure exactly what happened. It isn’t even mentioned in Peter Fitzsimons Kelly biography.

The ‘fracas’ occurred at a shop run by David and Amelia Goodman, at Winton, on the evening of September 27th 1877, when Mr Goodman was away on business. According to McMenomy “Dan Kelly arranged to deliver some meat to Mrs Goodman and pick up some groceries – an exchange which the Kellys frequently did to get supplies. Dan arrived at the shop after closing time and the Goodmans refused to open up. Dan and the Lloyds ( Tom and Jack) broke the door in and got their rations. Beyond that the details are unreliable.”

Ian Jones version says that according to Mrs Goodman when they arrived the three of them were ‘drunk and rowdy. They punched in a door panel threw some furniture around and broke windows. A visiting Jewish Hawker Moris or Moses Solomon became involved and Dan supposedly knocked him down……When Goodman returned two days later he spun a fantastic tale to the police. The Benalla Bench issued warrants charging the cousins with breaking and entering the Goodman dwelling and stealing an incredible array of goods valued at £133, including a case of boots, six coats, fourteen pairs of trousers and several watches. Goodman capped it off with an allegation that Tom Lloyd had attempted to rape his wife

Later, Jones writes “ On 19 October Dan Tom and Jack stood trial. They were promptly found not guilty of Breaking and Entering and Stealing by the police, but police magistrate Butler was quite undeterred by the fact that the prosecution case had been exposed as an elaborate fabrication. ( Goodman eventually received three years for perjury, his wife escaped a similar charge on a technicality and Moris Solomon had disappeared ) Butler now found the three boys guilty of damaging property to the value of £10, ordered each of them to pay damages of £5.10s  and serve three months hard labour for Common Assault.

Unfortunately Ian Jones references to the original newspaper reports of the Trial (O&M Nov 20th 1877) are incorrect. McMenomys reference is for OCTOBER 20th edition, but its not there either. I have spent half the day searching the O&M from September through to December without luck, so I am unable to bring them to you, but if anyone knows where they are please tell us.  

Jones lists that same  November edition of the O&M as one of his two sources for the claim about the perjury of the Goodmans. The entire article from the O&M is as follows:

Cox v Amelia Goodman.  
Mr Pow for plaintiff ; Mr McDonnell for defendant.
For the want of proper information on the face of the summons, the case was struck out.

This report contains almost no information so how exactly Jones links this to the Kelly case is not clear, and there is no reference  that I can  find anywhere to Mr Goodmans case, or his sentence of three  years for perjury.

Jones other reference in regard to the allegation about the Goodmans perjury is the Cameron letter, or in other words Ned Kelly! In the Cameron letter Ned Kelly complained that “Mr D Goodman since got four years for perjury concerning the same property” McMenomy, whose book predates Ian Jones, repeats Neds claim that Goodman got four years but there is no explanation or obvious reason why Jones later claimed it was actually three. Justin Corfield in his Encyclopaedia says Goodman went to gaol for three years ‘for perjury over the evidence he gave ; his wife escaped Gaol” and lists Ian Jones : A Short Life  as his reference.

So it seems this story about Goodmans perjury is based on an acceptance of Ned Kellys claim in the Cameron letter, a claim he doesn’t repeat in the Jerilderie letter, and on an allegation of Perjury against Mrs Goodman that was struck out when it got to court. The case was brought by “Cox’ a name not mentioned anywhere in relation to this incident so it probably had nothing to do with it even if it had proceeded.   Is this a myth in the making?

The answer to this was provided only a year ago, by Doug Morrissey in his book, ‘A Lawless Life’. He showed that Ned was completely confused about a separate case that Mr Goodman was involved with, and the  claim that Mr Goodman went to Gaol for four years for perjury was completely wrong. It never happened.  The person who went to Gaol was a man named Unger who tried to defraud Goodman. Unger went to gaol for 18 months and Goodman was never charged with anything.

Heres an extract from The Argus of February 19th 1878:

MONDAY, Feb l8.
(Before His Honour Mr Justice Fellows)
Mr C A Smyth prosecuted for the Crown

Morris Unger was charged with fraudulently concealing goods belonging to the
estate of Davis Goodman, of Winton, hawker and general dealer. Mr Molesworth appeared for the defence.….
….The jury found the defendant guilty, and his Honour sentenced him to l8 months hard labour. The Court adjourned till next day

So can anyone show me where in all this is the evidence that the Kellys, Dan in this instance, was being hounded and unfairly persecuted by the Police? There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Dan Kelly and his nephews went to the Goodmans and as a result there was indeed a ‘fracas’. Perhaps it was a bit of drunken hooliganism arising out of Mrs Goodmans unwillingness to open her shop up to three inebriated hoons, late in the day with her husband away. There was property damage and some sort of threatened or actual assault, and theft. Complaints were made - perhaps exaggerated - arrests were made, some of the charges were dismissed and convictions and sentences were entered for others. The case however was misrepresented by Ned Kelly as  some sort of corrupt activity involving the Authorities and the Goodmans, and as ever with Ned Kelly the great persuader, he’s had everyone believing till now that this was another example of the victimisaion of the Kellys. Well  it wasn’t. Once again, to quote Ian Jones conclusion about Ned Kellys version of the Fitzpatrick event, “he lied”.

This is actually yet another example of how so much of the Kelly myth is based on an acceptance of lies from Ned Kelly. The truth of this episode is that Dan Kelly wasn’t  innocent or being picked on. He got what was coming to him, and I doubt there would be anyone in the Kelly world who has the courage to stick up for the persecuted and hounded Kelly myth and argue that he didnt? I will be amazed if there is.

Sunday 8 May 2016

The Lies about Police Persecuting the Innocent Kellys

My purpose in reviewing the criminal records of the Kellys is to find out how true was their claim to be ‘Police made criminals’ and to have been hounded and persecuted by Police and Authorities generally. Kelly writers invariably point to this statement by CH Nicolson, given to the Royal Commission in 1881 as proof that the Police did indeed have such a Policy:

But I submit that Constable Thom would hardly be able to cope with these men; at the same time some of these offenders may commit themselves foolishly some day, and may be apprehended and convicted in a very ordinary manner.” This was the cause of my instructions to the police generally; and I had expressed my opinion since that to the officer in charge of that district, that without oppressing the people, or worrying them in any way, that he should endeavor, whenever they commit any paltry crime, to bring them to justice, and send them to Pentridge even on a paltry sentence, the object being to take their prestige away from them, which has a good an effect as being sent into prison with very heavy sentences, because the prestige these men get up there from what is termed their flashness helped to keep them together, and that is a very good way of taking the flashness out of them. 

This is how Peter Fitzsimons interprets that passage :

“From now on – and notwithstanding that at the time no member of the Kelly family is facing charges – it is official Police policy to look for an excuse to put the family and their cohorts behind bars, to take the flashness out of them, to give them a public lesson, to ‘bring the Kellys in on any charge’ and ‘root the Kellys out of the district’. All the Police need is the right opportunity”

Fitzsimons then goes straight on to cite a case that he believes proves the point : the arrest a couple of months later of Jim Kelly ‘for stealing a couple of horses in Wagga Wagga and – in the traditional Kelly manner – fiercely resisting arrest afterwards.’

This is complete rubbish from Peter Fitzsimons and is a good demonstration of the way in which Kelly mythology is created and sustained by disgraceful journalism. Fitzsimons disingenuously states that at the time no Kellys were even facing charges knowing full well that at that very moment in 1877 Ned Kelly was a full time stock thief. Does he not think the Police had their suspicions, were receiving complaints and were under pressure to do something? And did Fitzsimons deliberately ignore, or was his research so superficial that he missed the implication of Jims arrest in NSW occurring whilst hiding behind the alias “James Wilson”? How can arresting someone believed to be James Wilson be seen as an act of Kelly oppression? His flippant remark about the brutality with which Jim resisted arrest is another disgrace – “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.”The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser : Saturday 23rd June 1877

But there are a couple of other points that need to made about Nicolsons statement, which even Ian Jones admits is ‘ambiguous.’ Firstly, it was made after a visit to the Kelly house in April 1877, a very long time after start of  the extensive series of court appearances by Kellys and their relatives in the North East. It was over ten years after Red Kelly had died, seven since  Neds apprenticeship with Harry Power had ended, and was in the midst of Ned Kellys self confessed criminal career as a ‘wholesale and retail’ stock thief. Jimmy Quinns sequence of Court appearances had started in 1860! Its stupid and  dishonest to  suggest that a policy formulated in 1877  had anything at all to do with events that took place up to 17 or more years before, and yet this is what the Kelly legend teaches. Get real!

The other  way in which that quote from Nicolson is mangled by the Kelly sympathisers is to completely ignore the very important qualifications that Nicolson applies to Police behavior : he states at the very beginning that the police are NOT to  ‘oppress’ or ‘worry’ them ‘IN ANY WAY’. His advice was the very opposite of  what the Kelly sympathisers make it out to be – he said LEAVE THE KELLYS ALONE.

HELLO KELLY SYMPATHISERS IS ANYONE LISTENING? Nicolson did NOT say harass and persecute the Kellys, he said LEAVE THEM ALONE!

He said leave them alone OK? - but if they commit a crime, then  endeavor to bring them to justice, even if the crime and the sentence are paltry. He did NOT say, as Peter Fitzsimons tries to make out that they should go looking for an ‘excuse’ to put them behind bars. He said ‘LEAVE THEM ALONE’ unless they commit a crime. The truth is the Kellys, their extended contacts and the Greta Mob were a disruptive law breaking and distinctly anti-social  and criminal section of the local community and its obvious the police were fed up to the back teeth with the whole lot of them. Nicolson had decided that they had put up with this rabble for long enough - from now on if they put a foot wrong, the gloves were off.

The idea that the Kellys were persecuted is rubbish. Not one of the many charges and Court appearances of Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly and of Jim Kelly that I have examined in detail support the idea that they were based on Police prejudice or corruption. Instead what they mostly demonstrate is a colonial Justice system working with remarkable impartiality, such that quite often the Kellys received the benefit of some very considerable doubt. If you don’t believe me, go back and read my Posts.  The reality is that Ned Kelly lied when he claimed that 'there was never such a thing as justice to be found in the English Laws but any amount of injustice  but he used his remarkable powers of persuasion to convince his supporters that it was true. Its pathetic but some of them still believe it today, though none of them seems willing to defend him here, and identify the unjust persecution they blindly  claim he suffered. 

Surely its time we STOPPED repeating Ned Kellys nasty self-serving lies about the Police? They did NOT persecute the Kellys but we know for a fact that the Police were lied to, harassed, vilified and murdered by the Kellys. And if it wasn’t for Thomas Curnow they would have murdered a whole lot more.  I’m over it!

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Ned Kellys Last Days

This is the book Ian Jones described  as ‘poisonously inaccurate”,  the one he planned to publically denounce at the Ned Kelly Weekend back in 2005 because he believed it is "marked by persistent vilification of Ned Kelly — unbalanced to the point of psychosis …" surely the kiss of death.  As if that wasn’t enough there’s a dreadfully inaccurate cheap-shot review of the Book on IO by the “Neducator” whose conclusion was that the book only goes “a very short way in setting the record straight”.

Despite those discouragements, Mark Perry read it and recommends it,  and I have to say I am glad he did, because I have now read it twice and found it equally absorbing both times. The second time I read it, I was looking  for two things I seemed to have missed the first time. Firstly, I wanted to pinpoint the ‘poisonous inaccuracies’ and the vilifications of Ned Kelly ‘to the point of psychosis’, as claimed by Ian Jones. I’ll discuss these later.

Secondly I wanted to get a clearer idea of  exactly what  was the ‘legal loophole’  and the well hidden campaign that Alex Castles believed he had uncovered, showing that Ned Kelly may well have been hanged ‘illegally’. This latter claim is supposed to be at the core of the book. In fact there were many places in the book where Castles seemed quite breathless with excitement about dubious or arcane legal arguments and maneuvers that he believed he had uncovered, and he often hints at explanations that sound like conspiracy theory, but I never seemed to find the particular legal loophole, or develop a sense that there was a single big scandal at the centre of it all that resulted in Neds hanging being illegal.  Castles intense interest in the Law, and his highly trained legal brain  leads him to refuse to take anything at face value, and to examine each event from every possible legal perspective, and in so doing raises numerous possible places at which the Law could perhaps have been bent.

Take for example his account of the Inquest into the death of Joe Byrne. It took place at the exact same time that Joes body was brought out and strapped up to a door at the Police lockup, for a photo opportunity – indeed a 'grisly diversion', as this chapter is titled. Castles speculates as to why Wyatt, the local Police Magistrate left town that morning , hinting there was something inappropriate taking place to enable Standish to have his friend Robert McBean a JP preside over the Inquest instead of Wyatt whose job it would usually be . He believes that exhibiting Joes body at that time was a deliberate ploy by Standish to distract everyone’s attention from the Inquest – and he was successful.  By the time the Press heard about it, it was all over, and Castle had to dig deep to sort out the precise details and timing of events that day. He suggests they wanted to avoid any scrutiny of the actions of the Police at Glenrowan,  or of the exact mode of Joes death so as to minimize the possibility that reward money might not be paid. But Castles concedes, in truth everything that was done was ‘technically legal’, or in other words actually legal, but he says it came ‘perilously close’ to circumventing the Law.  Given that nobody knows why Wyatt the police Magistrate became unavailable – and the explanation might have been innocent  - then what happened may have been a perfectly legitimate and appropriate response, albeit less satisfactory than it may have been if the better experienced Magistrate had been available. But in the end I wonder how different things would otherwise have been – perhaps almost no different – the Court activity was virtually a formality, as there were no doubts about the identity of the deceased or the cause of death.  Never-the-less Castles reviews it all in amazing and critical detail,  and his somewhat ‘conspiratorial’ approach makes the discussion really interesting.

Castles microscopic examination of  every detail of the events between Neds capture and his trial and execution,  and of other events in the Outbreak such as the Stringybark Creek debacle provide a clear  and unique analysis of the controversies that surround all of them.

But what of the ‘legal loophole at the core of the book’ and the possibility that Ned was hanged illegally?  Ned and the other gang members had been declared Outlaws by a special act of the Victorian Parliament shortly after the Police murders at SBC.  Being declared an Outlaw had the same legal status as a conviction, and the prescribed Sentence was Capital Punishment. It also meant that the Outlaw could not be held legally responsible for any further offences that the Outlaw may commit, because under the Act, his status had been reduced to that of a wild animal! However on the same weekend that Ned was captured at Glenrowan, the Victorian Parliament was prematurely brought to a close and a new election called for, and as a result, and because of the way it was designed,  the Outlawry Act also lapsed, meaning the Gang were no longer Outlaws. This fact was realized soon enough, though not by everyone, but instead of immediate execution at capture Ned received a trial which would not have been his right as an Outlaw. However Castle contends the trial may still have been illegal because under the Law as it then was - and still is - no-body can be put on trial for an offence for which a conviction was already recorded. Neither could he be put on trial for offences commited during the period of Outlawry. So perhaps Ned should have been set free?

Castles hints that perhaps Authorities knew that technically what they were doing was illegal, but as he also points out, when the Act was drawn up it was not expected that the Outlaw would be captured alive, or that the Act would expire before the Outlaw.  The Act made no provision for the circumstances they found themselves in with Ned. They were unanticipated. Once again there is the scent of a conspiracy theory in the back of Castles mind, but he doesn’t provide the smoking gun. Never-the less the detail and the background arguments are fascinating to work through.

I am afraid I was unable to spot the poisonous inaccuracy or the vilification of Ned to the point of psychosis that was claimed to warrant the books condemnation by Ian Jones in 2005. Its hard to see how Jones assessment could be true if we take at face value what Castles daughter claimed about her father:

After seven years of working with Alex on this project, I can testify to the fact that he was neither 'pro' nor 'anti-Ned', much as I tried to get a commitment from him. He wanted to get past the myths and the hype, to return to the original sources and those events and characters that have been largely ignored by the popular histories, and let the evidence speak for itself.”

In that I would say he has been successful. In fact I thought Castles approach was almost perfectly  balanced, his writing careful and precise, so I would be most interested to have examples of his vilification and poisonous inaccuracy  pointed out to me by readers.  I thought Ned was neither cravenly flattered nor utterly condemned by this book. 

The one important thing the book lacks unfortunately are refernces. Sadly Alex Castles died shortly after the manuscript was completed but before he had compiled his references. His writing style suggests he took great care about accuracy and I have no reason to doubt the truth of the claims he makes in this book, but its always fascinating to search some of them out and read around the topics a little more.

This is one of the small number of great books  in the Kelly library. A must read.