Sunday 27 August 2017

Bill is winning the battle of Stringybark Creek

This is Bills map of SBC :
He drew it for Peter Fitzsimons but it didn't make it into his book.
Its the best map ever because it shows exactly where everything is at the site 

In March this year I asked the question “Is there a Stringybark Creek swindle underway right now?” It had been announced that plans were underway to upgrade signage at Stringybark Creek, and the Department responsible claimed to have involved all ‘stakeholders’ but I exposed the fact that an Australian amateur researcher who probably knows more about that place than anyone else on the planet, Bill Denheld had NOT been consulted.  Bills clever and patient research had identified the exact place where the Kelly gang murdered Lonigan and Scanlan, and in other research he located the likely area in the bush where Kennedy was also murdered.

The scandal arose out of the fact that the Department had developed a relationship with a group promoting an alternative site to Bills, a group (the CSI team) that opposed and were hostile to Bill and his findings, and were determined to exclude him from the conversation in the hope they could persuade the authorities to recognise their site in preference to Bills. Undoubtedly there is a keen rivalry between this group and Bill, and both are convinced they have correctly identified the actual site of the Police camp and the murders. – nothing wrong with that - but the way to resolve it is by full disclosure and free and frank discussion of the merits of the two places. That however has not been the way in which the CSI team have operated – they have refused to engage anyone anywhere in the debate about their Report ( and have restated that as their tactic in their latest version of their Report) and instead lobbied the authorities directly.

I wrote then “Nothing more loudly speaks to what’s going on with Heritage Victoria and the DELWP as being a swindle, as this fact, that a widely acknowledged  SBC expert and obvious major stakeholder has been deliberately excluded. This is a scandal!”

A year or two back, on their Members Only forum the CSI people were congratulating themselves on having persuaded DELWP to recognise their site, saying signage was already in  preparation and all would be revealed in due course. They laughed among themselves at what Bills reaction would be when he discovered what they had managed to pull off.  Earlier this year one of them wrote to me saying  In the latter half of 2017 it will become quite clear as to the site that merits endorsement as the most likely site for the police camp as there is work already commenced by independent organisation(s) and which will verify the claims of the respective champions of particular locations.” In fact at that time Bills work was not included in any sort of evaluation, and the only “champions” being considered were the CSI team. Earlier this year on their Members Only site, referring to this Blog someone wrote “A conclusion can be reached (and no doubt will be soon) without the lunatic babble demonstrated by ill-informed/ignorant anonymous contributors to site(s) which have no influence on the decision makers.”

It seemed to me at the time that it was almost a ‘fait accompli” that the CSI teams site was going to be officially recognised. Certainly, that’s what the CI team seemed to believe. So I wrote :“Heritage Victoria will become a laughing stock about a site that is almost sacred ground, a site they've allowed themselves to be tricked into misidentifying yet again because they've  accepted pseudoscience and the authority of Ian Jones rather than consider the evidence, the logic and the genius of Bill Denheld.”

“People will be aghast to think Heritage Victoria and DELWP accepted an absurd argument based on trees in old photos, and unprovable assumptions about huts drawn on maps, and that their claimed consultation with "stakeholders" was a pretence, that a little guy like Bill who challenged the powerful Mr Jones was swept aside because he upset their cosy monopoly of the Kelly story”

I then urged everyone to protest to Heritage Victoria and to DELWP, and to send them copies of the Critique that I wrote of the CSI Report and urge them to reconsider.

Well, its been a huge win for Bill!  And I think the CSI prediction that this site would have ‘no influence on the decision makers’ has been proven wrong! Clearly Heritage Victoria and DELWP have had a rethink. They don’t want to become a laughing stock for promoting a place promoted by the tin-foil-hat wearing brigade of pseudo-scientists whose arguments rest on claims about burls on trees and things nobody else can see in photos.

As Bill posted on this Blog last week, DELWP have acknowledged that he is indeed a major stakeholder, and he was invited to meet with the officers responsible for upgrading SBC, at the site itself. According to Bill they’ve accepted that the site promoted by Ian Jones for decades on the Eastern side of the creek is NOT where the Police camp was, and the pathway to it is being removed. Good on them.

In addition, DELWP are going to indicate roughly where the Kelly gang murdered Kennedy, a region of the bush Bill and Leo Kennedy identified several years ago.  Visitors will be shocked to see how far Kennedy was chased, and they will never again even be tempted to believe Ned Kelly’s lies about the murders being ‘self defence’. Furthermore, DELWP are going to minimise any references to the Kelly gang and make the slain policemen the main focus of the site. This will be galling news for the Kelly fanatics who write things on Facebook about the police like ‘they got what they deserved’. They wont be able to visit SBC anymore and imagine Ned Kellys behaviour there was anything other than appalling, violent and murderous. Instead Lonigan, Scanlan and Kennedy will be honoured for their service to the Community, their dedication to their job and their duty to uphold peace and the law. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Importantly for Bill and everyone who can see the logic of his argument, instead of recognising the CSI ‘site’ DELWP have decided not to identify ANY particular place as the site of the Police Camp. This tells me that they have not been convinced by the pseudo-science of the CSI team – and I hope my critiques helped in that regard – but politically they are currently unable to go any further. If they ever suggested to the CSI team that their ‘site’ was probably going to get ‘the nod’ then its clear they have now backed right away from that idea. That will be a huge blow for the CSI team who for some time have believed their site was about to be recognised officially and have been somewhat smugly congratulating themselves on getting their site ‘up’. But no, they’ve been knocked back. As for recognition of the true site, the place identified by Bill, I am sure in time it WILL be accepted.  Obviously the CSI pseudoscientists are being pushed away  and the momentum is now with Bill, but I suspect for political reasons the time is not yet right.

What I expect will happen is that many of the visitors who go to SBC will have heard about Bills work and will want to see the place he has identified. Visitors will be perplexed that its not identified, they will complain and ask why. In time, DELWP will be forced to respond, perhaps firstly by identifying Bills site as a ‘possible’ site of the Camp, then eventually, and perhaps after a proper archaeological  evaluation, it will gain the full recognition it deserves.

Monday 21 August 2017

Sir Redmond Barry : A Fantastic Victorian

Its not surprising that Sir Redmond Barry is not liked by people who idolise a police murderer – after all he sentenced Ned Kelly to death.  But criminals and their families and supporters almost never applaud or have anything decent or fair to say about the Judges who put them away, and its no different for the Kelly story. On the Iron Outlaw website -  unsurprisingly given that its run by a dedicated blind Kelly fanatic - Barry was listed as a “Villain” and a short so called ‘biography’ is nothing but a hatchet job on the man. Quotes disparaging him are taken out of context and all the many great and enduring achievements of his interesting life are completely ignored. The truth is that Barry was one of the great founding fathers of Melbourne and his memory will endure. Amongst Kelly fanatics though, he will only be remembered as the man who sentenced  Ned Kelly to death, and that will partly be the result of people like the Iron Outlaw guy misinforming anyone who looks at his website or reads his book. What a pity he hasn’t the integrity to honestly tell the whole story and allow readers to make up their own minds.

So here, to begin the discussion about Redmond Barry is an abridged version of  his achievements from Wikipaedia:

Sir Redmond Barry, KCMG, QC (7 June 1813 – 23 November 1880), was a colonial judge in Victoria, Australia,  of Anglo-Irish origins. Redmond Barry arrived in New South Wales in April 1837 and was admitted to the New South Wales Bar. After two years in Sydney, Barry moved to Melbourne, a city with which he was ever afterwards closely identified, arriving at the new Port Phillip Settlement on 13 November 1839. After practising his profession for some years, he became commissioner of the Court of Requests, and after the creation in 1851 of the colony of Victoria, out of the Port Phillip district of New South Wales, he became the first Solicitor-General of Victoria, with a seat in both the Legislative and Executive Councils. In 1852 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Later he also served as acting Chief Justice and Administrator of the government.

Barry was noted for his service to the community, and he convinced the state government to spend money on public works, particularly on education. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Royal Melbourne Hospital (1848), the University of Melbourne (1853), and the State Library of Victoria (1854). He served as the first chancellor of the university until his death and was also president of the trustees of the State Library. He was the first President of the Ballarat School of Mines (1870), which later became the Ballarat University and now Federation University Australia.

Barry was the judge in the Eureka Stockade treason trials in the Supreme Court in 1855. The thirteen miners were all acquitted.

He chaired the committee for the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne, he represented Victoria at the London International Exhibition of 1862 and at the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876. He was made a knight bachelor in 1860, and was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1877.

There a couple of other Kelly myths about Barry, beside the one that he was a ‘villain’. One is that after he sentenced Ellen Kelly for her role in the Fitzpattrick affair, he said he would have sentenced Ned Kelly to 15 years in prison for his role in it, if he were there too. The first known mention of this purported remark  is by  GW Hall in "Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges" and then later by J.J. Kenneally and  Max Brown, in his 1948 biography ‘Australian Son’. (Stuart Dawson describes the way this myth grows in the first comment at the end of this Post) The IO fanatic repeats this lie on his website and in his very recent book, and yet many years ago Ian Jones reported there was no record anywhere of this having ever been said. Ian Jones also said it would have been totally out of character for a Judge of Barrys stature and competence to have made such a remark, and he dismisses it as a fable.

The other myth about Barry and Ned Kelly is the claim that Kelly forecast Barrys death. What actually happened was that immediately after Barry had finished pronouncing the sentence  with the words “May God have mercy on your soul” Kelly replied saying “I will go a little further than that and say I will see you there where I go”

I can’t see how that is a prediction of imminent doom, as Kelly fanciers claim. Rather I see it as Kelly mocking the judge and saying, effectively ‘if you think you’re better than me, you’re not and when you die, you’ll be in the same place as me’ Ned Kelly as we know, had an extraordinary way with words and a very quick tongue.

But Barry was an old man, 67 and a diabetic. Three weeks later he died with a complication of an abscess that developed on his neck. But he outlived Kelly, and contributed massively to the cultural richness of Melbourne not only then but even now, through the Library , the Hospital and the University and other institutions that he promoted and supported.

Now, Kelly fanciers thought it was terrific when Aidan Phelan wrote a piece about Ned Kelly that  said this about him : The first thing we need to look at is the debate about whether Ned Kelly was a hero or a villain and why people dig their heels in on a particular side. It’s very easy to forget that Ned Kelly was a living, breathing human being. He had loves, hates, family, friends, skills and talents just like all of us.”

Now, I agree with that, even though its stating the obvious, but I ask, would the Kelly sympathisers extend the same understanding to Sir Redmond Barry?

Saturday 12 August 2017

Ned Kelly wasn't a bad kid

The green sash incident - ( love the dog!)

In contrast to the wealth of information that we have about the second half of Ned Kellys life, there is very little about the first half. Also in contrast to the second half, which was characterised by criminality and violence, what little we know of the first half suggests Ned Kelly was a fine boy.

Neds exact birthdate and place are unrecorded, but it was thought to have happened near Beveridge.  Ian Jones says it happened in a rental house that Neds father had built on land he bought on the south side of Mt Fraser, aka “the Big Hill”, in December 1854. Many years later, when being taken south to Melbourne by train after his capture, Ned himself was reported to have directed his guards attention to a ‘little hill’ to the left and said “That was where I drew my first breath” As Bill Denheld has noted, heading south the “Big Hill” would have been to the right, meaning either Ned had his wires crossed or else he was born near the ‘little hill’ not the Big Hill. More than 10 years ago the indefatigable Bill Denheld explored the area around the ‘little hill’ with Gary Dean and they found unmistakable evidence of a building site. Bill wrote A proper archaeological dig will prove the dwelling configuration.” As far as I know this hasn’t been done, possibly because almost nobody ever dared question Ian Jones’ assertion that the birthplace was on the southern slopes of Mt Fraser. Bills interesting discussions and photo collection of this site can be viewed on his webpages HERE. The exact truth remains unknown, but clearly Ned Kelly was born near Beveridge.

As Ive previously written, while he was growing up Neds father worked hard to provide for his growing  family. However he carried a heavy burden of guilt for the betrayal that he was involved in prior to his deportation from Ireland, and this fuelled both his determination to stay clear of the Law, but also his increasing dependence on alcohol. Never-the-less he was a law abiding citizen who I believe tried to protect his family from the negative influences of his own and his wife’s wider families and their associates, criminals who were frequently in trouble with the law for assaults, theft and other crimes. In 1863 Ellen attempted to defend her brother-in-law James against a charge of cattle stealing, and took Ned to the court to be a witness for the defence, both of them swearing on oath that James was at home with them when he was supposed to be stealing  13 cattle from a local blacksmith, Thomas Flynn. “Ellen has either told the truth or coached Ned to lie under oath” (Grantlee Kieza in “Mrs Kelly”) James is convicted and sentenced to three years hard labour. One can only wonder at what effect the sombre environment of a Court and his mothers encouragement to tell lies under oath would have had on 8 year old Ned. It would at the least have been confusing.

When a catholic school opened later that year, Ned started school. His teachers, a husband and wife were influenced by non-violent Quaker philosophy and so corporal punishment was rare. Ned learned to read and write to “second class standard” in six months. I am not sure what ‘second class standard’ is but by all accounts this was a worthy achievement.

Early the following year, 1864, when Ned Kelly was nine his family sold up and moved from Beveridge to Avenel, possibly in an ongoing attempt by Red to put distance between his family and the families of  his criminal brother, brothers-in-law and their asociates. They were debt free but had almost no money. They rented land and began to work it, and again proving Reds intent that his children prosper, he sent them back to school at Avenel for 4d each per week. At Beveridge Ned was remembered by a class mate as being ‘a tall and active lad and excelled all others at school games’. At Avenel he was remembered as ‘well behaved’ and ‘a very quiet boy’ However, at Avenel the teacher was much more ‘old school’ and inclined to box students around the ears and use a leather strap to maintain discipline. Later that year when they were all assessed by a Board of Education inspector, Ned passed Reading and Writing but failed Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography. He was second equal with three others in the class of 13 children,and his interest and talent for writing was already becoming apparent! When he was examined again in March the following year he also passed in Arithmetic. His age was noted to be 10 years and three months, the basis for the view that Ned was born in December 1854. Ian Jones (ASL) writes “So the first year at Avenel passed happily and peacefully enough and in November Ellen became pregnant” 1865 however was going to be very different.

Firstly, this was the year that Ned saved Richard Shelton, from drowning. Ned was 10 and big for his age – Richard was 6 – or 7, or 5 depending on which resource you believe. ( Corfield says he was born in 1860) The story is that he had slipped into Hughes Creek trying to retrieve his hat and Ned rescued him. I am not sure what the original sources are for this story, but it is one that lends itself to hyperbole, the stream being described as ‘swollen by recent rain’ and ‘a boiling hole of turbulent water’ by Jones, a ‘swirling torrent’ by Kieza, ‘raging waters’ by Fitzsimons, ‘rushing brown waters’ by Paul Terry -  yet 1865 was known as a year of drought! Forgive  my scepticism but Ned had apparently scammed the Sheltons before, collecting a reward for returning to them a ‘lost’ horse whose disappearance they suspected Ned may have been involved in. The horse was in good condition suggesting it had been looked after by someone who was fond of horses – Ned perhaps ? Nobody seems entirely sure exactly when Neds rescue of Richard happened, except that it was a school day morning, so I wonder how they can so easily remember it had been raining,  but  in any event its clear Richards parents believed the story and were most grateful to Ned for pulling their son out of the water and possibly saving his life. They presented him with the famous green sash, said to be one of Neds most prized possessions and as is well known, he was wearing it when captured at Glenrowan some 15 years later. Its now preserved in the Pioneer Museum in Benalla. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that Richard, when he grew up never denied the detail of this story but seemed reluctant to discuss it. I wonder if we really know the full story?

The second event of importance to the story that year was Red Kellys theft of a neighbours calf, his arrest and eventual imprisonment for ‘having illegally in his possession one cow hide’ This was Reds first transgression for more than a decade, and it resulted from the pressure to provide for his family, provision that was made almost impossible by his failing health and the drought- an absence of water and an excess of alcohol. He was treated leniently by the Courts and the Prison and released early, ( take note, believers in the myth of Kelly persecution)  but at the end of the year was again before the Court, this time for being drunk and disorderly. The Kellys were poverty stricken, and in 1866 there was no more money to send the children to school.

Instead, as Ian Jones wrote “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.”   He died in December. Ned was now 12 and approaching puberty, and he had just lost the restraining hand and cautionary advice from his father at the very time boys need it most. From here on, without Red, everything was about to change - he fell under the influences of his volatile mother and her family, the desperation of poverty and testosterone : tragically,  the ‘well behaved’ boy was going to be transformed into a killer.