Thursday 27 October 2016

Myth Busting Art Exhibition

Here, as promised is the other Contribution Ive recently received from a Blog Reader. It was sent as an Anonymous Comment but I decided to make it into a new Post. As yet I haven’t received any further details regarding the exact Venue or dates so I am hoping when this Contributor knows them he or she will let us all know.

Dear Death of the Kelly Legend blog, 

In response to a recent comment about George Metcalf on your blog, your readers might like to know that a Melbourne art gallery is planning an exhibition of 20 works by several artists critical of Ned Kelly and his gang, in early to mid-December. 

I have attached a promotional photograph of one of the works, “First Class Peanut – Ned Kelly shoots George Metcalf”, for your interest. 

Exhibition details will be announced once dates and opening hours are finalised, but it is not expected to run for more than six days, including a weekend.

The Public Records Office Victoria website, under 
“Whats’ On : 
    Ned Kelly
             /The Police Case”
gives the story of Ned Kelly’s accidental shooting of quarryman George Metcalf as follows:

Another Glenrowan Casualty Identified
Hidden among the documents in the Kelly collection are details of an unexplored incident at Glenrowan.
When considered in relation to the deadly, one-sided gunfight at Stringybark Creek (where three policemen were shot and killed), and the equally deadly and foolish plan at Glenrowan (where innocent hostages, including children, were killed), this incident magnifies the idea that the Kelly Gang was rather careless and accident-prone.

A detective’s report spells out the case: 

‘Ned Kelly before daylight on that Sunday morning [27 June 1880] called out a contractor named Adolphus Piuzzi from his tent near the railway line and that Piuzzi attempted to use his gun when Kelly fired at him and very nearly shot him. And afterwards, later in the day, when [George] Metcalf was bailed up outside the Station Master’s house, Kelly was fiddling with this gun of Piuzzi’s when it exploded striking Metcalf in the face. The blood came from his face and Mr. Stanistreet’s son got him water to wash it off.
‘And Kelly then said, “I did not mean to fire, it went off accidentally”‘, the detective report concluded.

But there is a remarkable twist in the account. It seems that Metcalf, before he died a few months later from the eye wound, made up a story that he had hidden in a chimney and that a shot fired by police had bounced off the bricks striking him. It looked as if he wanted to get compensation from the government.

Unfortunately for him, several witnesses saw him being shot by Ned Kelly. A manslaughter charge against the outlaw could, and probably should, have been drafted. Certainly, Metcalf can now be safely added to the outlaw’s death tally.
Sources: Louis Waller, “Regina v. Edward Kelly” in Colin Cave (ed) Ned Kelly: Man and Myth, (Melbourne: Cassell Australia, 1968).

Again, I hope your readers may find this little-known Kelly story of interest.

Friday 21 October 2016

A Review of a ‘Myth-busting book'

I have just received this from ‘ Horrie’, an anonymous but regular contributor to this Blog and other debates, who submitted it as a comment for one of the existing discussions. However I thought it such an important review that it would be better to make it into a Post, so I hope he won’t object to it getting the Star treatment. Ive also received a submission from Anonymous about an upcoming Exhibition which will go up as a Post after this one in a few more days. I am still waiting for Marks promised article on Sir Redmond Barry - these contributions are much appreciated. The interest in Peter Newmans article about the Photo has generated more interest than ANY of the Posts Ive ever made, which is actually fantastic, knowing that clever people interested in the Kelly story want to contribute and participate in the Blog and support me: 

A pal sent me a partial review of the Morrissey book, which is I think from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria journal or maybe The Age:

Doug Morrissey, Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life, Connor Court, Ballarat, 2015, pbk, ISBN
9781925138481, xv + 256 pp, $32.95.

'Mad, bad and dangerous to know' was Lady Caroline Lamb's pithy description of Lord Byron but, as Doug Morrissey shows, the words might be even more appropriately applied to Ned Kelly. With irrational delusions that merged into paranoia Kelly was a career criminal, in an organised network of criminals, for whom extreme violence was simply part of his stock in trade. He lived A Lawless Life — as the subtitle indicates — but the scale and nature of his violent criminality is all too often either ignored or excused by his biographers. Ned's modern equivalent in organised crime might be the leader of an outlaw motor-cycle gang,with fingers in many criminal pies (but especially in the re-birthing of stolen cars),ready to use extreme violence including murder to advance his plans or evade arrest, and generally indifferent to the mores of society at large. 

It is hard to imagine that such a figure, whose behaviour would be condemned by all except his fellow gang-members and, perhaps, their families, could ever have a sympathetic and romantic mythology develop around his activities. But Ned Kelly,with his bloodthirsty gang whose behaviour outraged the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries, has generated a literature and framed a popular perception that, most often, places him somewhere on the martyrdom spectrum. This sentiment is at the heart of Peter FitzSimons' Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia's Most Notorious Legend (2013) and is merely the latest reworking of the popular myths.

Morrissey's book is more than a simple account of A Lawless Life. It is an important revisionary attack on the dominant historiography with its 'old cliches and metaphors' and he highlights the limited research and repetition of multiple errors that are characteristic of most Kelly biographies.

This myth-busting book, assisted by John Hirst's valuable editing, reflects Morrissey's deep knowledge of Kelly Country and its people and provides an important counterweight to the familiar, generally sympathetic and overly romantic accounts of Kelly's life and exploits. 

In the popular imagination, fostered it must be said by some fairly indifferently researched accounts, Ned Kelly’s criminal history and murderous activities are whitewashed and transformed into several enduring and endearing myths that present him as a precursor of 'the little Aussie battler'. Among other things, he was the victim of police persecution who fought back; he was pushed into crime by circumstances beyond his control; he was a latter-day Robin Hood who stood up for the peasant selectors in their land war against the squatters; he was an Australian-born Irish patriot and a native republican. Morrissey exposes the foolishness of these, and several other myths associated with Australia's most notorious bushranger. 

Saturday 8 October 2016

Sneak Preview?

Next month the Ned Kelly Vault at Beechworth is going to unveil the ‘Alleged Ned’ photo they’ve been promoting for most of this year as possibly the Kelly find of the century. There has been much speculation and lots of interest in this photo, and no doubt, now they’ve announced that its public unveiling will be on Saturday November 12th, the excitement will build even further. They made me the generous offer of a private viewing some weeks ago, but not living in Victoria, I was unable to take them up on it. Peter Newman offered to go in my place and write a Post for the Blog about what he saw, but the Vault insisted the offer was exclusively made to me.

Undaunted, Peter embarked on his own investigation, and has now submitted a post on a photo which he thinks might be the ‘Alleged Ned’ photo that the Kelly Vault now has in its possession. I am not so sure, because the Vaults own promotional material on their photo clearly says it hasn’t been published or been seen in public before, whereas this one obviously has, albeit in a rather limited way.  It appeared in an Auction Catalogue along with the famous – or should we say infamous – “Gentleman Ned” Photo, the one wrongly identified by Ian Jones as being of Ned Kelly. The Auctioneers refunded the successful bidder the purchase price, once it had been clearly shown and accepted by all parties that the Photo was not of Ned.  This other photo mentioned by Peter Newman was passed in at the same auction and presumably returned to the family. One can only guess at the reasons for it not selling, but surely the most likely reason would be that nobody was certain it was Ned.

I thank Peter for this stimulating contribution: it will be interesting to find out next month if he’s on the money or not!

The Gentleman Ned photo was put up for sale at a Christie’s (Melbourne) “Australian Literature and Sport’ auction on 26th March 2002. That auction featured a large number of photos from the Ned Kelly  photographic archives, together with other Kelly memorabilia. Most of the photos were from a collection passed down from Ellen Kelly to her daughter Ellen Knight and grand-daughter Elsie Pettifer. Other photographs were from the Lloyd/Hart collection.

One of the photographs (No 123) is titled ‘Ned and Dan Kelly cutting sleepers’. Could this be the photo the Vault is talking about? If so then the fact it has previously been put up for auction means it is hardly a new find, although the catalogue states it had never previously been published.

The Catalogue contains the following description:

‘NED AND DAN KELLY CUTTING SLEEPERS’ mounted sepia print, 110 x 150 mm

A spidery blue ink description on the back is partly decipherable. It appears to refer to ‘Ned and Dan’ Certainly, some descendants believe that the two men in the photo are Dan Kelly at left, and Ned. However the photo itself and the men’s clothing suggest a date in the 1890’s, more than 10 years after the brother’s deaths. The mustachioed man at left is too old to be Dan Kelly (he died at 19) though the second man, with a half grown beard strongly resembles Ned Kelly. It is true that while Ned Kelly was growing his beard after release from prison in February 1874 he worked at a sawmill. But these two axemen do not look part of a commercial operation and, as already noted, they wear bush clothing that belongs to the 1890’s rather than the 1870’s.

In 1995, Ned Kelly’s niece Elsie Pettifer told Ian Jones that she believed the two men to be her father Walter Knight and his brother-in-law Jack Kelly/King. Jones accepts this identification, though Kelly pictorial expert Keith McMenomy is still tempted to believe the right hand figure is Ned Kelly. THE PHOTOGRAPH HAS NEVER BEEN PUBLISHED.

The mount is badly stained and torn but the image is completely undamaged.

$2000 - 4000

Despite the doubt expressed about whether it is Ned, my own view is that it could well be him. The facial features look similar to me and the mans build is about right I’d say. However Christie’s say the clothing indicates the photo was taken in the 1890’s so perhaps it is Jack Kelly/King after all.

The Catalogue (which I viewed in the heritage Collection at the SLV) has a notation on it that indicates the photograph was either sold, or perhaps passed in for $1400.00.

The Catalogue contains a lot of other interesting photographs, many of which I had not seen before. Early 1950’s photographs of the Kelly Homestead at Eleven Mile  Creek were of interest, as were the  collection of photographs of many of the  sympathizers and others like Tom Lloyd who played a role in the Kelly story.