Sunday 30 September 2018


Having received my copy of Doug Morrissey’s latest work later than some of the other readers of this Blog, I understand now, having read it, why none of them volunteered to write a review of it for me. “Selector Squatters and Stock thieves” is not an easy book to read. It’s not so much an exciting tale of bushranging, the police chase, personalities and persecution, like most other Kelly books - Morrissey’s earlier one included - but instead is a very much drier and detailed examination of the entire social and economic environment of the time, the actual times and the actual place and the actual context in which the outbreak sits. 

There was a discussion about this context as far back as the landmark Kelly symposium in Wangaratta in 1967, where Ian Jones set out a view which has remained mostly unchallenged inside the Kelly mythology till now, that the difficult and divisive social and economic conditions at the time, and particularly selector poverty and the land wars between selectors and squatters were the seed bed for the Outbreak. From the floor at the symposium Jones view WAS challenged – by Weston Bate, an actual historian - but Jones brushed Bates objections aside saying “We are in happy disagreement”.  McQuilton developed Jones idea further with his 1979 book The Kelly Outbreak in which he advanced the idea that Ned Kelly was a ‘social bandit’ – an almost accidental popular leader who emerges out of the sort of poverty and widespread social and political unrest Jones postulated was afflicting the north East during that era. 

In 1987 Doug Morrissey completed his doctoral thesis “Selectors squatters and Stock Thieves : A Social history of Kelly Country” at Latrobe University. It remains unpublished but ‘extensively revised and brought up to date with new research’ it forms the basis for this new book. In this book, Morrissey challenges the orthodox ‘Kelly legend’ view and offers a much wider overview of the district and its political, economic and social history than the very narrow and focussed perspective usually seen in the Kelly literature. According to the Kelly legend the north east was divided along strict ethnic, class and religious lines: Irish settlers were patriots and opposed the British, Catholics and protestants shunned one another, the poor selectors were at war with the wealthy squatters over land rights, police were the mercenary enforcers of squatter rights, and Ned Kelly emerged from a typical poor Irish selector background to become the people’s hero. This portrait, according to Morrissey is supported by a highly selective narrative which ignores the historical realities that he documents extensively in this book. Catholic Ellen Kelly, for example, married a protestant and so did her daughters Maggie and Annie – and Annie later had an affair with a policeman. The reality was vastly more complex than the Kelly legend and its proponents would have us believe. The  Kelly scenario of widespread selector failure, poverty and disquiet, the sense of being under siege and oppression by police and squatter, the idea of the north east being a seething politically volatile hothouse ripe for revolution that was rescued by Ned Kelly -  Morrissey shows that's all a fantasy. Yes, there were disputes, there was drought, there was crop failure and individual failures - but in the main the place was going forward, people were making their way ahead by hard work and community support of its varied constituents. The Kelly outbreak was pure criminality that emerged out of a fringe of larrikins and shanty dwellers who repelled the majority of the population of the north east.

The book of over 350 pages is divided into three parts: Social order and authority, Land settlement, and Crime and Policing. With respect to the prevailing social order Morrissey makes it very clear that the Lloyd/Quinn/Kelly clan were not in the least bit representative of the typical inhabitants of the north east:  “Notions of respectability and decent public behaviour were taken seriously by the majority of the regions inhabitants”. They would not have approved of what Morrissey terms the ‘shanty culture’ of the Kelly clan, a life that revolved around the ‘shanty’, a communal meeting place that was the focus for a life centred around drinking, riotous living and larrikinism, and was associated with criminality of varying kinds – petty crime, sly grog selling, prostitution, stock theft. 

Instead the majority of selectors were extremely hard working and stoic in the face of the physical challenges, including drought that faced them all out on the isolated borders of settlement. The typical selector was a hardworking, upstanding church-going member of local communities who respected the rule of law and traditional values. Even the ones who identified as Irish, and supported home rule for the Irish back home upheld the rule of British law in the colony. Selectors were noble folk in the main, breaking in the land and for many attempting  a profession they had no prior experience of: according to Morisseys figures 37% of selectors in the districts that he studied described themselves as labourers and another 21% were such things as school teachers, miners and carpenters.  Morrissey’s discussion of land acquisition under the constantly evolving legislation shows how selectors took advantage of the opportunities, and how frequently they were successful – he challenges a claim that only 37% of selectors in the north east were successful, with his own figures derived from an analysis of 265 selections made between 1868 and 1880 showing that ten years later 78% were still on their selections and 72% eventually acquired the titles to their land. All things considered, these are noteworthy outcomes.

In the third section of the book Morrissey reviews the criminal history of the clan, and discusses the complex relationships between police, the criminals and their informers. The full story of the Kelly ‘villains’ Hall and Flood is detailed, and was news to me, but Morrisseys view of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, is a view which he elaborated in his first book, and is wrong. I think he is close to the truth in portraying Fitzpatrick in some way as a ‘mate’ of Ned, but he fell into the trap of accepting Corfields entirely erroneous claim that Fitzpatrick died of cirrhosis of the liver. This trap has the effect of making the earlier and otherwise entirely unsupported claims about Fitzpatrick being a drunk easier to accept, and this then leads on to an acceptance of other equally unsubstantiated claims about Fitzpatrick, such as that he was a womaniser. Consequently Morrissey’s view of Fitzpatrick as a ‘scheming policeman’ is not one supported by the evidence.

That however is not my sole or even my main criticism of this otherwise very detailed comprehensive and informative book. My main criticism is that once again Morrissey has dispensed with even the slightest attempt at a bibliography or referencing, instead alerting us by italicising the words taken from elsewhere, but not providing even the slightest hint about where from. Morrissey simply expects us to take his word as gospel. He hasn’t provided us with the opportunity to explore further or to check up on what he claims is the case. This failure borders on contempt for his readers, and is a huge pity. Surely Morrissey knows that this book contains material that will be highly contentious in certain quarters, and the Kelly myth-makers will be desperate to discredit it. Unfortunately, by not providing any references he has given them the excuse they want, an excuse to reject everything he says in the book that they don’t like as just his opinion – and that will be almost all of it! 

This is in fact a really good book. It’s another step forward in the deconstruction of the mythology about life in the North East in the 1870’s, and further erodes what little remains of the case for Ned Kelly being the people’s hero from the north east. He was in fact a clever, violent and vengeful criminal whose support was non-existent once the money ran out, as is evidenced by the families inability to obtain the excellent services of barrister Mr Hickman Molesworth to defend him in Melbourne. 

Sunday 23 September 2018

Part VI : What we actually know about Fitzpatrick.

Is this Fitzpatrick in 1894?

The story that’s been a central pillar of the Kelly myths and legends is that Fitzpatrick was a disgraceful womaniser, a liar and a drunk who framed the Kellys and caused the entire Kelly outbreak. Because of his disgraceful behaviour, he was sacked from the force and eventually he died of cirrhosis of the liver, an alcoholic. On Facebook only a few days ago one fanatic wrote “Many people lost their lives due to the actions of this alcoholic..” and another agreed saying “You are correct Anthony if my maths are correct I believe it is 12 people including 2 children."  

However this series of Blog posts searching for the truth about Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick is almost at an end, and thanks to the discussions about him here and on Facebook pages, so also is the story that’s been told about him for 140 years.

What these discussions and the ground-breaking research of authors Ian MacFarlane and Stuart Dawson have revealed over the last five years, is that the Kelly claims about Fitzpatrick, like the ones quoted above, are mostly false. Consequently, in similar fashion to  Ian Jones who, in 1967 delivered a lecture called “A new view of Ned Kelly”, the time is rapidly approaching when it will be time to deliver “A new view of Alexander Fitzpatrick’. The 'old view' is no longer tenable.

Everyone claims that from start to finish Fitzpatrick was a rotten policeman. But he came highly recommended, and there is not one single complaint or other piece of adverse evidence of any kind in relation to his service up to the time of the incident. Not one single thing. The claims that he went to the Kelly home against orders and should have taken a warrant with him are false.  The claim by Kelly supporters that the injury to his wrist was not consistent with his claim that it had been caused by a bullet is false.  The complaints that were made after the incident, as discussed on this Blog, were often not found to be true, and those that were, were trivial. He was clearly made a scapegoat by police hierarchy who blamed him for the outbreak and admitted they had it in for him, they smeared his reputation without ever being asked to justify themselves, and the actual events that led to his dismissal were never detailed. Instead he was dismissed on the basis of a broad character assassination that was never challenged. Fitzpatrick requested more than once an opportunity to explain and defend himself but was denied it. The opinions of literally hundreds of the ordinary citizens of Lancefield who knew his work and signed a petition in support of him were summarily dismissed by both Standish and later Chomley, who lazily relied on the opinion of Standish. And yet, in 1881 when the Royal Commission investigated the outbreak, the policeman heavily criticised and rebuked about many aspects of his conduct was not Fitzpatrick but Standish, the man who brought about Fitzpatricks demise. The Commissioners wrote that what happened following Fitzpatrick’s visit was ‘unfortunate’ but in contrast to the Kelly myth about his visit, that it was against the regulations they wrote it “was justified by the rules of the service”

They claim Fitzpatrick was a womaniser. This is because when he was engaged to the woman he would eventually marry - and stay married to until his death – he was paying maintenance for a child borne out of a previous failed relationship, a relationship about which we know absolutely nothing. But he seems to have dealt with it honourably. Some claim he had some sort of sexual interest in Kate Kelly, aged 14, and made some sort of improper advance toward her on April 15th1878. The only evidence for such a thing again is the evidence of known liars, the Kellys. Fitzpatrick denied it and even Ned Kelly didn’t believe the story about him interfering with Kate. Kate herself at first said it didn't happen, then changed her mind and said it did, and described circumstances that were inconsistent with the testimony everyone else gave about it. The moralising about Fitzpatrick’s relationships that comes from the Kelly camp is deeply hypocritical, given not only their known propensity to tell lies, but their own innumerable documented immoralities and sexual indiscretions, a topic no Kelly apologist would want to touch with a forty-foot barge pole, such is the sleaze such an investigation would reveal. There is nothing known about Fitzpatrick’s private life that suggests anything much out of the ordinary – despite the mud thrown and the duplicitous stance of Kelly supporters. 

They claim he was a notorious liar and denounced Fitzpatricks testimony about the incident at the Kelly home that Fitzpatrick became embroiled in, as lies. However, his testimony has been examined in forensic detail by Stuart Dawson and found to be remarkably consistent.  His version of what happened never changed. There is no reason to disbelieve it. However, when the Kellys stories are examined in similar forensic detail, the Kellys are the ones whose story repeatedly changed and their testimony can easily be shown to be riddled with lies and inconsistencies. Even the Kelly fanatics favourite Kelly author, Ian Jones concluded that Ned Kelly lied about what happened. Mrs Kelly lied about it, so did her daughter Kate, and so did her son Jim. These are demonstrable lies, not hopeful allegations. But Fitzpatrick, though till now burdened with the endlessly repeated labels of liar and perjurer was never once accused of lying or perjury while a policeman, let alone convicted. Not once. What a sickening irony that the proven serial liar and thief is held up as an Aussie icon, and Fitzpatrick’s memory is trashed.

Perhaps the meanest and most horrid lie told by the Kellys about Fitzpatrick is that he was an alcoholic. They claim he always had a problem with drink, was drunk when he came to arrest Dan and that he died from cirrhosis of the liver. Oddly enough this claim, about being drunk on arrival at the Kellys place is not made by Ned Kelly in his descriptions of the ‘incident’. Also odd, as we learned in our discussions, is that though the police force had harsh rules in relation to policemen drinking and frequenting pubs, Fitzpatrick openly spoke of his visit to the hotel at Winton and consumption of one brandy and lemonade refreshment on his way to the Kellys.  One would have expected a liar and an alcoholic  who didn’t want to be sacked to keep very quiet about going to a pub while on Duty and getting drunk– but Constable Fitzpatrick was never charged then or at any other time with any drink related indiscretions. Not once. And yet so determined were some in the police to pin something on him that they finally got him for laughing after lights out in the hospital, and for arriving at work 15 minutes late.  That was about the best they could do. The fact that nobody ever mentioned a drinking problem amongst all the correspondence about him and his behaviour strongly mitigates against him having one. A recent suggestion by Kelly fanatics in denial about Fitzpatrick’s sobriety, that the reason he never appeared to be drunk is because, being an alcoholic, he had massive tolerance to the stuff is an argument that is beyond absurd. But it illustrates the extremes to which Kelly fanatics go back then and now in their attempts to maintain and find justification for their hatred of Fitzpatrick. The irony of course is that in contrast to the imagined alcoholism of Fitzpatrick  there are innumerable frightful examples in the Kelly story of alcoholism wreaking havoc on them all, beginning with Neds own father Red Kelly.

The claim Fitzparicks death was from cirrhosis of the liver -  alcoholic liver damage – is false. I have no idea why Justin Corfield wrote in his Kelly encyclopaedia that Fitzpatrick died of cirrhosis, because his death certificate clearly states he died from disseminated sarcoma of the liver which was invading his stomach and giving rise to ascites, in common with most abdominal malignancies. There is no known relationship between sarcoma of the liver and alcoholism. Kelly sympathisers of course claim to know better than medical science and the opinion of the doctor who did the autopsy and wrote out the death certificate, and continue to claim, in the absence of even one supporting fact that he DID have cirrhosis and he WAS an alcoholic because he had ascites.! The presence of ascites is fully explained by the disseminated sarcoma, and contrary to the desperate Kelly fanatics claim is not an indication of cirrhosis.

Lastly we come to a couple of sad incidents in later life after his police career was over, that saw Fitzpatrick before the courts. In 1883 he and another bloke were fined for swearing and for breaking a window in a pub. The Fitzpatrick haters see this as additional proof of his dissolute alcoholic lifestyle, but he wasn’t charged with being drunk and disorderly, and though it mentions they didn’t want to pay for their drinks it doesn’t actually say he was drunk. Exactly what caused the disturbance is not clear. In 1894 someone called Alexander Fitzpatrick went to gaol for ten months for passing valueless checks. There are discrepancies in what is recorded about this Fitzpatrick – for example that he was single - that suggest to some people that this may have been a different Fitzpatrick. We discussed this at length three years ago on this Blog, but I see no reason to deny it may well have been the ex-constable.

But neither do I see these two incidents as confirmation of anything other than that Fitzpatrick’s life after the Outbreak was not straightforward. He mentioned the difficulties that being sacked created for himself and his new family – he may well have become an angry and bitter man who had difficulty controlling his anger. Nowadays we might discover he had post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. What I think is entirely unjustified though is to weaponize these incidents against Fitzpatrick’s unblemished record from years earlier as a young Policeman, and claim they prove all the innuendo and lies that were spread  about him back them must be true after all. The claims against him need to be justified by evidence from the same time, not by ‘evidence’ dragged back from the future. 

So who exactly was he? That’s another  discussion altogether - and we will have it soon. 

Friday 14 September 2018

The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy : Part V

Two farmers , a builder, a carpenter a contractor and a blacksmith : six of the two hundred citizens of Lancefield who signed up in support of Constable Fitzpatrick
and against the blackening of his name and reputation
by police hierarchy determined to blame him for the Outbreak

In the last few posts I’ve been discussing what we actually know about Constable Alex Fitzpatrick. We know that up to the time of the infamous ‘incident’ he had an unblemished record of service in the Victoria Police. We know that contrary to popular opinion, there is not one shred of evidence that he had a drinking problem or was an alcoholic. We also know, having seen Fitzpatrick’s death certificate that Justin Corfield’s Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia got it completely wrong, claiming he had alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver when he died. The death certificate recorded that he died from Liver sarcoma that was disseminated and had begun invading his stomach. Sarcoma of the liver is a completely different an unrelated disease to cirrhosis. Anyone who knows anything about the way malignancies spread in the abdomen will know that this dissemination is almost always accompanied by an accumulation of fluid called ascites, which was also recorded on the death certificate.

I’ve also written about the complaints that were made about Fitzpatrick’s conduct in 1879 and 1880 that led up to his dismissal from the police in late April 1880. As far as I have been able to discover, only two charges were proven against him – one for laughing in a hospital after ‘lights out’, and the other for missing the train in Sydney and arriving late for work. He was eventually dismissed from the force by Police Superintendent FC Standish on the advice of Senior Constable Mayes, who admitted to the Royal Commission that from the moment he began working with Fitzpatrick he was looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

This week I want to continue the discussion about Fitzpatrick’s dismissal and show that he was absolutely right to complain to the Royal Commission that he was harshly treated.  

After the “incident” at the Kelly house in April 1878, Fitzpatrick was transferred to Beechworth and soon after, was sent to Richmond, in Melbourne, apparently for his own safety. However, because he knew what the Kellys looked like he was then sent to Sydney to keep watch on the docks in case the gang tried to escape by sea. This turned out to be a good move because he discovered that Jim Wilson, a violent convicted horse thief sentenced to five years in Darlinghurst Gaol, in Sydney, was none other than Ned Kellys brother Jim Kelly. 

Last week I wrote that the charge of ‘neglect of duty’ that he pled guilty to, related to him ‘missing the train’. I thought this meant that he arrived late because he had not caught the train that brought him to work, but I’ve re-read those documents and realise I misinterpreted them. “Missing the train” referred to the fact that he was supposed to have been at the Station when the Southern Train arrived to he could scrutinise the passengers as they got off, and look for any members of the Kelly Gang who might have arrived on it. He arrived at 7.15 on the morning of April 30th1879, quarter of an hour late, missing the train that arrived at 7am and wrote, in explanation, that his own watch was at the Jewellers getting repaired and he was using a watch lent by the watchmaker which ran late. In the PROV file there’s a report from a detective who was sent to the Jeweller to check out Fitzpatrick’s story – and it did. Unsurprisingly the Jeweller said of the watch that he lent Fitzpatrick, that it was “considered a fair time keeper”. 

There was also a complicated story that arose out of a complaint by a hair dresser in Sydney about Fitzpatrick and a woman he knew called Edith Graham (elsewhere named as Edith Jones), an employee of  Kazimany(?) Thomas Pogonowski, a hair dresser.  Pogonowski maintained that on the very same day that Fitzpatrick had ‘missed the train’, April 30th1879, Fitzpatrick engaged him in conversation in his shop to distract him, while Edith stole jewellery , ‘wearing apparel’ and money to the value of seventy pounds (£70). However when Senior Constable Edward Reatingye(?) interviewed Pogonowski he was told the value of the stolen goods was £50.  Edith later claimed that the jewellery had been given to her by Pogonowski “under the pretence of marrying” – which sounds suspiciously like a payment or an inducement for ‘services rendered’ by the servant girl to her employer. The report of the incident tendered by Fitzpatrick says that Inspector Rush told Pogonowski that ‘it was not the second or third time he had been troubled with him and the woman he keeps”. Fitzpatrick directed police to the place where Edith lived, he recovered the supposedly stolen items and in the end no charges were laid against anyone. However, as a result of this incident the police hierarchy decided to recall Fitzpatrick to Victoria. Reports were sent from Sydney to Standish in Benalla, and after reading them he wrote, on May 12th1879 : 

“I concur with the inspector general’s opinion that it is no use in keeping Constable Fitzpatrick in Sydney any longer. He not only neglects his duty for which he was especially told off but he has evidently mixed himself up in a matter calculated to raise grave suspicions of his honesty. He is I fear a worthless and useless young man”

On May 25thStandish forwarded the reports he had received about Fitzpatrick to Superintendent C H Nicolson, along with a Memo which included an unwarranted mischaracterisation of everything that happened :

“It will be seen that Constable Fitzpatrick’s conduct has been most unsatisfactory while on special duty in Sydney.  He was on several occasions absent from duty at the Railway station where his services were urgently required and the attached file shows that he is in the habit of associating with persons from whom he should stand aloof. In short I fear he will never be a good constable.”

Standish goes on to write :
“The following entry will be made in his record that :
“Constable Fitzpatrick while on special duty in Sydney conducted himself in a most unsatisfactory manner; he was lazy, neglectful of his duty and associated with improper characters. In fact his whole conduct drew down the (indecipherable) of the inspector general of police and was calculated to bring discredit to the Victorian police”

But let’s be fair here: Fitzpatrick came to work late once – or possibly twice – and he was mixed up in a dispute between a dodgy employer and his employee, but neither he nor the alleged thief was ever charged let alone found to be guilty of anything. And that was it. On the positive side, the record shows he worked 12 to 14 hour days and he had very usefully identified Jim Kelly in disguise, but he received no credit for that. Standish claimed on the basis of the Edith Graham incident that he was ‘in the HABIT of associating with persons from whom he should stand aloof’ and for that, and perhaps twice being late for work his ‘ENTIRE conduct’ is branded as being ‘calculated to bring discredit to the Victorian police’. Where is the evidence that Fitzpatrick was in the HABIT of associating with the wrong sort of person, or that his ENTIRE conduct was unacceptable? These are gross misrepresentations.

It’s interesting to compare Fitzpatrick’s treatment by Standish with his treatment of another policeman the Kelly supporters love to hate: Constable Edward Hall. Hall was the one who tried to arrest Ned Kelly for horse stealing and when Ned was about to escape, drew his gun and pulled the trigger three times – but it misfired each time. Ned then attacked Hall but once he had been subdued, Hall bashed Ned’s head in with his revolver, and had to get a doctor to come from a nearby town to stitch up the mess he made. Later still, in Court, Hall lied about documentation that hadn’t actually been issued when he claimed to have seen it. So how did Standish respond to this obviously dishonest and violent policeman? He described him as ‘hasty and injudicious’and transferred him out of the district. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand for what, by comparison, were minor incidents was roundly condemned and kicked out. How can that be fair?

So, Fitzpatrick was recalled to Victoria in late April 1879. Not long after getting back to Victoria he sustained a leg injury which must have been quite severe because he was in the Police hospital for almost four months. That was where he broke the rules by laughing out loud after lights out and was fined 5 shillings! In September 1879, now recovered, he was transferred to Lancefield and the supervision of the already hostile SC Mayes. As I recounted last week, at the Royal Commission Mayes admitted his determination from the outset to get Fitzpatrick out of the force, and so he complained about an incident involving Fitzpatrick, saying he had neglected his duty. However as I also detailed in the previous post, when this incident was investigated, according to Fitzpatrick’s unchallenged testimony to the RC, he was “exonerated of all blame”.

Never-the-less in April 1880, without making any attempt to ascertain the particulars that supported the sweeping condemnations of his character supplied from Sydney, and by SC Mayes at Lancefield, and without giving Fitzpatrick an opportunity to defend himself, Standish dismissed Fitzpatrick from the police. 

In July 1881 Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commissioners what happened: 
“I was instructed by Senior-Constable Mayes to proceed to Melbourne from there. The late Sergeant Porter had my voucher made out to be stationed at Romsey, temporary duty for a few days. That night a telegram was sent to the police depot, stating I was to be discharged from the police force to-morrow. That was Tuesday. I asked Captain Standish to tell me the reason why, and he just explained that he had received this communication from Mayes ; and I understood from Captain Standish that was the sole reason I was discharged from the police force ; and I think, as against that, those 200 petitioners ought to go further than Constable Mayes. It is hard my character should be blackened. I might have erred in small things. There are many constables in the force who have done more serious things than I did, and have remained in the force and got promotion.”

In reference to his dismissal he was asked :“Had you any opportunity of reply ?
ANSWER : I never had the slightest opportunity at all. I applied for a board of enquiry, and the Chief Secretary (Mr. Ramsay) declined, as he had left all power with Captain Standish. Notwithstanding that, there were two petitions got up on my behalf by the residents of Lancefield and Romsey, asking that I might be reinstated.
12894. You think you were harshly treated ?
ANSWER : I did, indeed.

The petitions that Fitzpatrick mentions are a pair of remarkable documents that, to their shame, the Kelly story tellers have almost universally, and deliberately ignored. Ian Jones doesn’t mention them in the supposedly greatest Kelly biography ever written. Peter Fitzsimons doesn’t mention them either and neither do sundry other lesser Kelly story tellers like Paul Terry and Ian Shaw, all of whom condemn Fitzpatrick in the usual way, as a drunk and a liar without restraint. However, Ian MacFarlane discussed them in his landmark work from 2012, and so does Grantlee Kieza in his excellent 2017 biography of Ned Kellys mother. 

The reason the Kelly myth-makers like Jones and Fitzsimons have ignored these two petitions, and why nobody anywhere else wants to talk about them is because they represent an almost complete rebuttal of the Kelly myth about Fitzpatrick, that he was a disreputable drunk and an incompetent and useless policeman. What they show, in an extraordinary display of support for Fitzpatrick is that the ordinary people of Lancefield held him in high regard.  On one side you have a few senior police who appear to have made use of a series of minor infringements to smear the reputation and rid the force of a policeman they disliked, perhaps for personal petty reasons, – and on the other side, two HUNDRED respectful citizens of Lancefield who regarded Fitzpatrick as a perfectly good policeman. 

Here is part of what they said”

“We, the undersigned inhabitants of the Lancefield district of Victoria, venture to address you on the subject of the removal and discharge of Mounted Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick who was stationed for nine months in this district. We deprecate the slightest idea of any desire to interfere in the slightest manner with the discipline of the force nor do we desire to question the administration, but on hearing that Mounted Constable Fitzpatrick was discharged on a  report from a superior officer that he did  not do his duty, could not be trusted out of sight and associated with low persons we felt constrained to give our free testimony to the fact that during the time Mounted Constable Fitzpatrick was in the district he was as far as we could see, and we came in contact with him every day, zealous, diligent obliging and universally liked.”

Later they wrote“He made several clever captures and appeared to us as one of the most efficient and obliging men in the force”

Unfortunately, as Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commission, the Chief Secretary had left decisions about Appeals and Enquiries in the hands of F C Standish, the Police Commissioner. Nowadays we would not allow a person with such a marked conflict of interest to adjudicate on Fitzpatrick’s request for a board of  Inquiry, but things were different in 1880. Standish exercised his power to deny the request for an enquiry that would have resulted in indepndant scrutiny of his decision to sack Fitzpatrick. Why would he want that? He might have been embarrassed at being found wanting ! – which was of course what the Royal Commission DID indeed find the following year. His conduct of the police operations was, according to the 1881 royal commission on the police, 'not characterized either by good judgment, or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in his position'. His response to the Lancefield petition was equally dismissive of the possibility that two hundred citizens of Lancefield may have seen something in Fitzpatrick that he had missed. His reply, on May 10th1880 was as equally self-serving : “In reply I beg to state that the ex-constables conduct during the time that he was a member of the force was generally bad and discreditable to the force. I cannot hold any hope of his ever being reinstated to the position of constable on the Victoria police”

The irony of this remark is that it shows how blind Standish was to the evidence  right in front of him that completely contradicted his belief that Fitzpatrick was "generally bad and discreditable to the force" - the petitioners are attesting to the fact that he was GOOD and in their eyes he was a CREDIT to the force! Standish and the others didnt want to know - thy just wanted him out!

Remarkably, a year later the citizens of Lancefield were still concerned about the treatment handed out to Fitzpatrick by the police hierarchy and a second petition was presented, this time to H M Chomley who had replaced Standish. Chomley also declined to offer Fitzpatrick an opportunity to argue his case, and instead relied on the unsupported opinions recorded on his file, but added “I have always heard him described as a liar and a larrikin”. In fact it was the Kellys who promoted the view that Fitzpatrick was a liar – it isn’t recorded anywhere in his Police file that he was a liar, or ever charged let alone found guilty of perjury. So not only did Chomley deny Fitzpatrick the opportunity to defend his reputation, he trashed it further by adding his own unsubstantiated claim that he was a liar. 

There would seem to be more to Fitzpatricks story than is made clear from the surviving documentation, and I suspect it was something about Fitzpatrick’s personality and style that got under the noses of police hierarchy. He seemed to be able to relate to ordinary working-class folk but not to the rigid disciplinarians of the police hierarchy. There’s no evidence that he was an alcoholic, but if there was, I think I could understand why he might have become one because whichever way you look at – and unfortunately for the Kelly story very few people have even tried to look at it, so blinded are they by their unfounded hate for the man – Fitzpatrick was treated disgracefully by all sides. The redemption of Fitzpatrick started by Stuart Dawson, continues.