Friday 1 December 2017

Please help solve a modern Kelly Mystery

This is the front page of the promotional booklet that was released with the 1906 movie

That scrappy item in the photo, a ragged, stained and worn original, is not just an old piece of Kellyana, or even just a curious relic from Australia’s past, but an internationally significant and rare item that was issued along with the 1906 full length motion picture, “The Story of the Kelly Gang”. You can read about the movie HERE. Kelly sympathisers think it’s important because it’s about Ned Kelly, but the real importance of that little document is its link to the very first full length feature movie ever made. To understand the significance of that one movie, and the programme that was issued with it, think for a minute about what that first movie has given rise to : the massive multi billion dollar movie industry that affects all of us almost every day of our lives, tens of thousands of movies, thousands of Hollywood, Bollywood and other actors and mega-stars, an entertainment industry that has transformed our culture.

Imagine where your mind could go if you stood in front of that little scrap, and started to dream? Star Trek, Saving Private Ryan, Elizabeth Taylor, Hogwarts, Kung Fu, James Bond, John Wayne, Mordor, Al Pacino, Star Wars, King Kong, Jaws, Avatar, Marlon Brando….. the whole thing started right there, with that movie in 1906.

Undoubtedly, that little faded bit of memorabilia is of almost inestimable value, not just to Kelly sympathisers but to the entire world of entertainment, movie making and megastardom.

But the mystery now is that its missing.

And it seems to have gone missing in Kelly country.

This is what happened: the  owner of that very rare item is the well known and admired Australian history enthusiast Brian McDonald. As many of us know, included in Brian McDonalds enormous library are quite a few valuable old documents and books that relate to the Kelly story. He has generously donated some of them to the Burke Museum in Beechworth, but he also offered the 1906 Movie programme to the Kelly Vault, on loan. It would have been a huge drawcard to the Vault, and no doubt Matt Shore would have been  thrilled to put it on display.

The programme  and twelve postcards of stills from the movie that accompanied it were all secured in the little blue box shown on the left. Its about the size of a small A5 exercise book. Brian McDonald bought them  to Beechworth himself,  a couple of years ago. They were placed in a secure place to await completion of the careful preparations required for their display. And then the magazine and the cards  and the little blue box disappeared. Vanished without a trace. And nobody knows when. Or how.

Brian, Matt and the Vault staff, the staff of the Burke Museum and everyone who had anything to do with the plan to put them on display are absolutely shocked, stunned  and deeply puzzled at what could have happened to them. They’ve searched high and low, they located other items that Brian also had provided on loan, but they’ve found nothing to give them the faintest clue as to what has happened to the movie program and the postcards. They’re at their wits end.

So, in desperation, Brian wrote to me a few days ago and asked me to help in the search knowing that Kelly devotees of all persuasions look at my Blog in their hundreds every day. He is hoping that someone out there might have seen these items somewhere, or even have them in their possession, perhaps not even realising what rare, valuable and important items of history they are. Every Auctioneer, antique dealer and book buyer in the country would instantly recognise them as being objects of huge importance and significant value. They would be very interested in the seller.

But Brian and Matt Shore at the Kelly Vault don’t care who has them, or  how or why they came to have them in their possession, or what they wanted to do with them. They just want help in getting them all back in one piece, no questions asked. End of story.

Their plea to every Kelly devotee out there who reads this post, is to study that picture at the top of the page, and the image of the little blue box and try to remember if you’ve ever seen them, or the postcards, or have any idea where they might be. Please also be vigilant as you go about your Kelly investigations in book shops and second hand stores and garage sales and keep an eye out for these items, and get in touch with Brian or Matt, or this Blog if you think you might have information that will help get them back. All assistance and information received will be treated with the utmost confidence.

Lets find these little treasures and get them on display so we can all wonder at them!

Brian can be contacted at

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, pilfering fingers have gone through the Kelly archival records as recorded in The Kelly Gang Unmasked book.

    Bricks from the chimney at the former Kelly shack at 11 Mile Creek have been stolen - even though that chimney was a later addition and was not there when the Kellys resided there.

    I think the Victorian archives has several copies of that missing 1906 item mentioned in the blog. They are not like movie programmes of today of course.

    I hope the Brian Mcdonald item has been mislaid and not nicked.

    That would be execrable.


1. Moderation is back on. I haven’t got time to be constantly monitoring what comments are made and deleting the mindless rubbish that Kelly sympathisers have been posting lately. Please post polite sensible comments, avoid personal abuse and please use the same name whenever you Post, even if its a made-up name.