Saturday 28 July 2018

The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy : Part One

In April next year there will be some sort of a Kelly convention at Chiltern, not far from Beechworth, a fund raiser for the Chiltern Athenaeum. One of the speakers has already announced what his topic will be: Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick:  “I'll be doing a presentation on this bloke at the Kelly event in Chiltern next April and I won't be holding back.” And then he says, in what is probably an understatement, and somewhat ominously “I don’t like this bloke”.

Of all the people Kelly sympathisers hate, and there are many, Fitzpatrick is without doubt the person Kelly sympathisers hate the most. They all claim, as did Ned Kelly himself that the entire Kelly outbreak is Fitzpatrick’s fault because he lied about what happened at the Kelly house when he went there to arrest Dan Kelly in April 1878. They mostly allege that Fitzpatrick was a drunk, a bumbling but treacherous fool who made a mess of his attempt to arrest Dan, and then to get himself out of trouble concocted the story of an assault. Some say the police hierarchy jumped at the opportunity to escalate the fracas into an attempt to murder a policeman so they could put as many of the Kellys away as possible. The bloke who will be giving the Lecture at Chiltern next year, Alan Crichton, believes theres much more to it than that. Several years ago he developed and wrote up a conspiracy theory about the episode, and for a long time its been available on the Iron Outlaw Site, in an article called – wait for it – ‘The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy’. He wrote “the whole scenario at the Kelly hut on the 15th of April 1878 was one big setup by police long before Fitzpatrick’s arrival at the hut”. I expect that is what he will be expounding on next year at Chiltern.

Now, for the benefit of everyone who reads this, and in particular for the many people in the Kelly world who don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between playing the man and playing the ball, please understand that what follows is not an attack on Alan Crichton. I have never met the man and know nothing at all about him except for the fact that he likes to write about the Kelly story. But this essay is not about him – its a critique of the claims he has made about the Fitzpatrick Affair in that article.

Crichton’s conspiracy theory is that the motivation behind the entire Fitzpatrick affair was that the police wanted to imprison Mrs Kelly: “The police knew how much Ned and his siblings were devoted to their mother. She, after all, was the heart and soul of the formidable clan”.  What they needed was an excuse to get into her house, and a policeman who could be manipulated into going there and causing trouble.

According to Crichton, the chief conspirators were Superintendent Brooke-Smith and Sergeant Whelan at Benalla who, in their search for a suitably pliable policeman picked out  Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick to be their fall guy.  “Out of all the capable officers in Victoria at the time, Inspector Brooke Smith happens to choose one of the most incompetent larrikins in the force in the form of Alexander Fitzpatrick. With Fitzpatrick’s shocking reputation and being in the force but one year, why would Brooke Smith choose a bloke like this to take over the most dangerous station in the North East? It could not be through lack of choice. Any officer chosen would have been a better replacement than Fitzpatrick.” To Crichton, the only possible explanation for the involvement of such an incompetent as Fitzpatrick in this affair, is that he was specifically chosen because of that very same incompetence. Crichton wrote “I believe that Alexander Fitzpatrick was simply used by his superiors as their inebriated, gullible, desperate, and quite dispensable sacrificial lamb.”

According to Crichton’s conspiracy theory, to insert their man into the scene, Brooke-Smith, created  a temporary vacancy at the nearby Greta police station by sending its usual occupant, Senior Constable  Strahan, to NSW to search for Ned Kelly. Theres also a story that Strahan was off sick – and Crichton thinks that if that was the case, it was a ‘sickie’, a fake illness that provided an excuse to have him off work. Either way, with Strahan out of the way, Brook-Smith and Whelan were able to send in their hand-picked stooge, Fitzpatrick, to replace him and to do their bidding at the Kelly house.

All police needed now was a pretext to get Fitzpatrick into the Kelly house, and it appeared in the Police Gazette of April 10th 1878, in a list of arrest warrants that had been issued, and one was in the name of Dan Kelly for horse stealing. Crichton writes: “The police now have reason for entering the Kelly hut, an opportunity for Fitzpatrick to start an aggravating confrontation as planned, and a chance to incriminate the senior members of the household with a charge of assault, or what unfortunately turned out to be cries of attempted murder”. (my underlining)

The last piece in Crichtons conspiracy theory is his belief that Fitzpatrick was such a coward that he wouldn’t have been persuaded to visit the Kelly homestead unless he was first assured that Ned Kelly himself wouldn’t be there. Therefore according to Crichton, Whelan and Brooke-Smith told Fitzpatrick that Ned Kelly was in NSW, and Strahan had been sent there to try to find him.

So, according to Crichton’s theory, primed by his superiors lies, Fitzpatrick saddled up at Benalla on Monday april 15th, and headed off to take his temporary appointment at Greta. With Whelans encouragement, he would stop off at the Kelly homestead on his way past, start the planned ‘aggravating confrontation’ and arrest Dan Kelly if he happened to be home.

I am not sure if Crichton or anyone who has read this theory over the years realises it, but it undermines some of the important pillars of the mainstream Kelly myth, the most important one being that this was all Fitzpatrick’s doing. Instead, according to Crichton, Fitzpatrick was as much a victim in all this as the Kellys were, an unwitting tool in the hands of his scheming superiors, their “quite dispensable sacrificial lamb” Accoding to Crichton Fitzpatrick was tricked by Whelan and Brooke-Smith into walking into a situation that was bound to go badly, given their understanding of Fitzpatrick’s incompetence and the Kellys state of mind after years of police harassment, a virtual powder keg waiting for a match. If Crichton’s theory were to be believed Fitzpatrick has to be seen as a figure of pity, a weak pliant and pathetic individual who was duped and sacrificed by his superiors, and as a result had his career ruined and his reputation forever and falsely blackened. If Crichton’s theory were to be believed, the true villains were Whelan and Brooke-smith, not Fitzpatrick. If Crichton’s theory were to be believed it would mean that for 140 years the Kelly sympathisers have been directing all their venom and hate at the wrong police.

Another thing Kelly sympathisers would have to abandon if Crichton’s theory was accepted is their long-held view that Fitzpatrick disobeyed orders when he visited the Kelly home. They say that police were ordered to never go there alone -  but he did, and so they say, in addition to all his other personal faults, Fitzpatrick was insubordinate, further proof of his unfitness to be in uniform. But according to Crichton his superiors ordered him to go there, and they were happy for him – indeed they wanted him to be - alone. So if Crichtons theory is to be believed, Fitzpatrick was doing exactly what he was told to do.

Somehow, I don’t think Kelly fanciers really want to give up hating Fitzpatrick, but if they are going to adopt Crichton’s conspiracy theory, they would have to. They are struggling already to let go of their attachment to the unhistorical Republic theory - could they let go of the man they love to hate so much, Alex Fitzpatrick, and instead see him as a figure to be pitied? If they wont do that they will have to reject Crichtons conspiracy theory.

Next weeks post will be part two of my critique of Crichtons conspiracy theory, which like most conspiracy theories has a superficial plausibility but which on close analysis turns out to be completely untenable.

Friday 20 July 2018

Corrections: A Response to a trolls campaign against free speech

For the second time this year, in an egregious violation of my absolute right to privacy, Mr Mick Fitzsimons has taken it upon himself to broadcast on his Facebook Page personal details about me and my origins and profession. Not only that, he has yet again broadcast outright lies and innumerable defamatory statements about me, and encouraged others to participate in a hate-fest of derogatory attacks on me, personally. He has never made a secret of the fact that his campaign is aimed at silencing me, and denying me the right to hold and to express opinions about Kelly history that he disagrees with, on my own Facebook pages and Blog - yes truely, he thinks I should be stopped from posting my own thoughts and my own ideas on my own FB page and my own blog! Breathtaking!

Until now I have not made any formal response to the unending stream of abuse and vilification, or the accusations levelled at me by this individual, but this latest attack requires a response. However, it will be my only comment on the topic, and there wont be any comments posted in response. I want to talk about the Kelly story not internet  thuggery. This comment is  not addressed to Mr Fitzsimons or his supporters – they are only interested in directing lies and hate at me. No, this is directed at any fair-minded individuals out there who might believe in the time-honoured tradition of everyone being given a fair go, in the idea that in an honourable contest you attack the ball and not the man, and in the idea that everyone’s right to privacy should be respected. These are ideas that by his half-decade of attacks on me, Mr Fitzsimons has demonstrated he doesn’t believe in. His lies have ben repeated so often that people are starting to believe them. Fair minded people who read his posts need to hear the truth.

I am not interested in recounting in detail the tawdry history of Fitzsimons attacks on me; suffice to say that his version of it is nonsense. My first contributions to the Kelly debate were under my own name, in 2012, not anonymously as Fitzsimons wrongly claimed yesterday. But from the moment I expressed an opinion about the Kelly story that Fitzsimons disagreed with, I became a target for his personal attacks and unwarranted abuse, including the disgusting and offensive suggestion I had something in common with Dr Joseph Mengele, a Nazi criminal who tortured and experimented on women. Subsequently I rejoined the debate as Dee, so that my surname would not be a distraction, and soon enough made it quite clear to anyone who would listen that Dee was not my real name and the image I used was an Avatar, and not in any way indicative of anything in particular. Fitzsimons however is determined to promote his childish idea that I am pretending to be a girl, that I am hiding behind the identity of a girl and now we have people claiming I wear women’s clothes, that I am a ‘cross-dresser’ and today that I am a ‘Kiwi sheep rooter’ a filthy comment that several people found amusing.  Fitzsimons himself, in an act of blatant hypocrisy, participated at length  on a Forum using a womans name, and an Avatar of a baby sucking a dummy – but he was never accused of pretending to be a baby or hiding behind a woman’s name.  He participated anonymously in  many forums - further acts of hypocrisy. (I know this because I was the administrator of several Proboards Forums - the administrator can see IP addresses – and though Fitzsimons likes to disguise his address with a proxy server he is also lazy and careless)

Fitzsimons and others, as well as attacking me personally at every opportunity, also commenced a relentless campaign to violate my privacy and to find and broadcast my personal details on the World Wide Web, a campaign which resulted in Fitzsimons and others on several occasions confidently declaring they knew my identity, and then wrongly naming several innocent people.  Earlier this year he circulated images of me to his pals.  This offensive campaign continued right up to last week when Fitzsimons announced that I am Mr T, an anonymous poster to my Blog. This is what he wrote : “Mark you have to know that Mr T is David and like Bob, I don't know how you can associate with that scum”. Once again, Fitzsimons is dead wrong. I am not Mr T. I have no idea who Mr T is and I don’t care. Its none of my business who Mr T is.  But from Fitzsimons page we now have the sickening spectacle on Thursday of  a self-declared Kelly descendant supinely offering thanks to Fitzsimons and declaring, in reference to his violation of my right to privacy “you deserve this honour to disclose this information”. What kind of people think there is something honourable about invading someone’s privacy and broadcasting personal and private information about someone on the Internet? Its actually a crime!

In a time when everyone using social media is being constantly warned about hacking and the need to protect ourselves from identity theft and criminal activity on the internet, we all have an absolute right to determine how much or how little of our personal lives we expose on the Internet and on Social Media. That is why I have never objected to people posting on my Blog or on any Facebook page using a pseudonym or calling themselves ‘anonymous’. It is an individual’s right, theirs alone and not mine to determine if they want to broadcast their personal details on the internet. I am interested in what people have to say, not in who they are. If it’s clear they don’t wish to be identified, I give absolute respect to that choice of theirs. Not so Mr Fitzsimons, and his supporters – they have decided that THEY will be the ones who decide who gets to keep their personal details private or not! Who the bloody hell do they think they are?

So I am not Mr T, or any of the many other people who post comments anonymously or using pseudonyms on my Blog.  Even though I have for years repeatedly and consistently and truthfully denied it, Fitzsimons continues to claim they are all fake identities created by me.  So for the last time, I will say it yet again : They are not fake identities invented or in any way linked or related or known to me. I post to my Blog as Dee and nobody else. I have no idea who Ashleigh Broad is, who Cameron is, who Horrie and Alf are, who Roy or any of the other names listed by Fitzsimons are. They are people who post to the Blog with their own ideas and thoughts. They’re nothing to do with me and if they don’t wish to disclose their identity, that’s their right and I respect it.

I have never posted personal details online of anyone. I have never asked the police to investigate Fitzsimons or anyone else. I have never stalked anyone. I do not have multiple personalities. I am not a pervert or a criminal or a disgraced doctor. I am not fat or balding. I am not a psychopath or mentally unstable. I have never dared anyone to name me; No, all of these allegations that Fitzsimons has made against me are lies, blatant bullying by him and his gang of Facebook thugs who want to make me go away, to silence me.

But they have failed. I am still here, I am not going away and I am not going to be silenced. I will continue to exercise my right to have and to express my views on Kelly history on my own FB page and my own Blog. I will not allow my right to freedom of expression to be trampled on by these people.As always anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion in a positive way, anyone who wants to play the ball and not the man will continue to be welcome to do so, whatever their opinion is. But for Fitzsimons and his ilk, the solution is incredibly simple : if you dont like what I write don't read it. Write your own stuff on your own places about your own Kelly beliefs, leave me out of it, mind your own bloody business and stay the hell out of my private life.

That is my final comment on the matter.

Saturday 14 July 2018


Make no mistake : the legend of a republic of north east Victoria is now rubble

The following is a critique of Steve Jagers response to the recent publication by Stuart Dawson of a free book that discusses the origins of the claim that the Glenrowan incident in 1880 was Ned Kellys attempt to establish a republic of north-east Victoria.  Its important to note that I am deliberately calling it a response to the ‘publication’ of Dawsons book rather than a response to the book itself – because firstly, according to Dawsons comment on my Blog, Jager had already published much of this material some years before.  Therefore it simply cannot possibly be regarded as a response or a refutation or in any way a direct challenge to the  material in Dawsons book, but is instead a re-issuing of a statement released by Steve Jager several years earlier of his reasons for believing the Republic idea has historical validity.

Secondly, Jager’s document can be seen to be a reaction to the publication of the book rather than to its content because, apart from two trivial exceptions he doesn’t directly address a single one of Dawson’s arguments. There is no attempt in Jagers article to refute Dawsons arguments – all Jager does is recycle historical claims about a republic, claims which are all directly dealt with in Dawsons book. To think Steves piece in any way undermines Dawsons claims is to reveal that you either havent read Dawsons book or else you didnt understand it, or what constitutes actual 'research'.

The two exceptions to Jagers practice of ignoring Dawsons book almost completely are found in the first couple of paragraphs, the first being a misinterpretation of what Dawson wrote.
The preface to the paper begins with, "It is a close examination of a longstanding claim, first made and promoted by influential Kelly historian Ian Jones from 1967 onwards...." Following is a collection of sources directly referencing Ned Kelly's republic from newspaper articles which predate Dawson's claims against Ian Jones by over 20 years!”
As the whole sentence and the rest of the book make clear, Dawson is NOT claiming that the Republic idea was introduced by Ian Jones from 1967 onwards. All he is saying is that 1967 was when Ian Jones began discussing it. So Jagers argument here falls flat, but for anyone who might not have read the book, it creates a bad, but entirely false and misleading impression.

A little further on, Jager wrote this:
Since the publication of Dr. Stuart Dawson's paper, he has also mentioned that Leo Kennedy who is the great grandson of Sergeant Michael Kennedy, will also be writing an article to mention that as a child he overheard a conversation in Shepparton between his father and Thomas Patrick Lloyd in which Lloyd mentioned he, "fed those nuisances a whole lot of nonsense" deliberately "to make them look stupid", in reference to Kelly researchers who had approached him for information regarding the republic.
By including this oral history as information to help try and back up his claims, Dr Stuart Dawson is effectively contradicting himself by trying to omit oral history with, oral history..”

Jagers point seems to be that you can’t dismiss one claim on the basis that its oral history and then expect to be believed if you then use oral history to make a claim of your own. In fact, oral history has a role to play in all historical research, but as Ian Jones himself said  “At times, it’s uncannily accurate. But even family tradition can come up with awful traps and inaccuracies”

As the various stories told by Thomas Lloyd illustrate, oral history can indeed be ‘problematic’. In fact, with perfect timing to illustrate my point, this very weekend a clash in oral history has been exposed with a living Lloyd descendant claiming that she sat in on the interview her father gave to Doug Morrissey, and the kelly republic was never discussed. Morrissey now asserts he has never met this woman, that her father gave him several interviews, that most definitely they discussed the republic, and Lloyd told Morissey it was a fabrication! So whose oral tradition are we going to accept? I am sure neither of these people are telling lies, and that there will be a perfectly sensible explanation as to why their two recollections seem to be incompatible, but until that has been found, who can be sure exactly what took place?

The point about oral history is that it shouldn’t be automatically rejected as  rubbish or immediately accepted as reliable history but instead claims need to be carefully scrutinised and used with caution.  On page 24 of his book Dawson discusses the place of oral tradition in the Kelly Republic story in detail, but Jager doesn’t discuss the arguments there. His point about oral tradition also falls flat : Dawson  does not contradict himself.

So, other than these two minor comments which miss their mark, Jager completely ignores the content of Dawsons book, and instead goes on to list and quote extensively from documents that he regards as supportive of the republic, but there is no attempt at any kind of analysis of any of them. In relation to the first two articles  that he lists he comments : As a Kelly researcher, the direct mention of papers and documents citing Kelly's plans cannot be overlooked on this subject.”  Indeed, but then Jager does overlook them, offering no further analysis of the origins or the reliability of these claims, something which Dawson most certainly does do.   

These two articles, from 1945 and 1947 are not just mentioned but discussed carefully by Dawson, who traces the origins of the claims in them, such as that ‘papers and documents citing Kellys plans’ were taken from Ned Kellys pocket when he was captured. He showed they are both linked to an article in the 1900 Bulletin which was what Dawson describes as a spoof. To illustrate : imagine someone wrote an article that was published in Spectator magazine proposing as a joke, that Chopper Read could have been Australia’s first president under the proposed republic. And suppose that years later someone saw that article but failed to recognise that it was satire, and then wrote a piece on the plan to install Chopper read as Australia’s first president. And then someone else quoted that article, took it a little more seriously…and so on, till eventually children were being told at school that Chopper Read was nearly Asutralias first president. THAT is exactly how the Republic story began and those two articles Jager mentions from 1945 and 1947 are examples of how later writers had started to lose sight of the fact that the original article was a joke. They started to write about the Republic as if it was true. Going forward, Brown picked up on the speculation and then Jones, McQuilton and Molony went to town on the idea and turned it into fully developed explanation which became accepted as fact.   To refute Dawsons claims Jager needed to address those arguments, not just point to those articles and pretend Dawson hadn’t already taken them into account in his book.

Next, Jager mentions an article from 1995 by Phil Maguire that talks about the fabled ‘Declaration’ supposed to have been taken from Ned Kellys pocket at Glenrowan and seen by Len Radic in 1962 in London. As a Kelly researcher, Jager ought to already have known that the original claim about documents taken from Neds pocket at capture, was a report of a ‘rumour’ – about letters and a notebook. It was nothing more than a rumour and yet from this ‘rumour’ all manner of totally baseless speculation has emerged about what the letters were, including speculation that one of them was a republican declaration. But here are the facts : that claim is speculation about a rumour! – there is absolutely zero evidence to support that claim. Its quite possible this rumour was baseless and nothing at all was taken from Ned Kellys pocket. But if something was taken, nobody has any idea what it was. This article by Maguire, and the role of Len Radic in the Kelly republic is extensively detailed in Dawsons book.  Jagers response to the book should have been a response to the arguments Dawson made in it about the article and about Radic. Simply reposting the Maguire article and not addressing Dawsons remarks about it is pointless. Recycling speculation about a rumour is not ‘research’.

Jager  next provides a link to a speech about the Kelly republic given by John Phillips former Chief Justice of Victoria. Again, there is no commentary, and certainly no mention of the fact that in his book, Dawson examines all Phillips’ claims, and answers them in great detail.

Lastly, Jager lists a number of phrases plucked out of the Jerilderie letter and from a couple of letters written by an anonymous ‘Lady’ and speculates that these are clues to the existence of Kelly's Republic/Rebellion”. It is of course a long bow to draw, given that none of them actually mention a republic, and neither did Ned Kelly. In fact  nobody then or for many decades afterwards saw what Jager sees in those same words, and Jim Kelly, Thomas Lloyd, James Ryan and J J Kenneally all believed that the Kelly story without a Republic chapter was the  ‘complete’ story.

To the people who praised Steve Jagers research, and to Steve Jager himself, I say it  was a commendable effort, but there’s a lot more to research than just posting a list of other peoples claims and opinions. Real research requires tracking down of every one of those claims, not just a section of them, and careful analysis of them; it requires tracing claims back to their sources, looking for every possible relevant piece of evidence, and it requires a rational and logical discussion and conclusions. And when it comes to the Kelly republic myth, that’s exactly what Stuart Dawson has done.