[Editor: This is a chapter from The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers (5th edition, 1946) by J. J. Kenneally.]
DISTRIBUTION OF £8,000 BLOOD MONEY.
After the capture of Ned Kelly and the destruction of his three mates at Glenrowan on June 28, 1880, the Victorian Government then gave some consideration to the paying of the reward of £8,000 offered in equal parts by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments for the capture or destruction of the Kelly Gang.
It was finally decided to appoint Mr. C. McMahon, Mr. Jas. Macbain, and Mr. Robert Murray Smith as a Board to take evidence on the services rendered by the various claimants, and allocate the reward as it (the Board) thought fit. The Board examined only five witnesses, viz.:
The Hon. Robert Ramsay, M.L.A., late Chief Secretary; Mr. Joseph Delgarno Melvin, an “Argus” reporter; Mr. George Vasey Allen, a reporter for the “Daily Telegraph”; Mr. John McWhirter, a reporter for the “Age”; Mr. Charles C. Rawlings, a farmer near Glenrowan.
After taking the evidence of these witnesses as to what took place at Glenrowan, the Board allotted the reward as follows:—
1 Supt. Hare .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. £800 0 0
2 Thomas Curnow, State School teacher, Glenrowan .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 550 0 0
3 Senior-Constable Kelly .. .. .. .. .. 377 11 8
4 Sergeant Steel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 290 13 9
5 Constable Bracken, Glenrowan . .. .. 275 13 9
6 Supt. Sadleir .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 240 17 3
7 Stanhope O’Connor (in charge of the blacktrackers) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 237 15 0
8 Jesse Dowsett, railway guard . .. .. 175 13 9
9 Sergeant Whelan, Benalla .. .. .. .. 165 13 9
10 Constable Canny .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
11 Constable P. Gascoigne .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
12 Constable Phillips .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
13 Constable Barry .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
14 Constable Arthur .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
15 C. C. Rawlins, a witness before the Board .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
16 Constable Kirkham, Benalla .. .. .. 137 11 8
17 Senior-Constable Smyth .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
18 Constable P. Kelly .. .. .. .. .. .. 137 11 8
19 Constable Dixon .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
20 Constable Jas. Dwyer .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
21 Constable Wilson .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
22 Constable Milne .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
23 Constable Stillard .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
24 Constable Ryan .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
25 Constable Reilly .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
26 Constable Graham .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
27 Constable Hewitt .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
28 Constable Wallace .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
29 Constable Walsh . .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
30 Constable Mountford .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
31 Constable Cawsey .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
32 Constable Healey .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
33 Constable Moore .. .. .. .. .. .. 115 13 9
34 Mr. McPhee, guard on pilot engine .. 104 4 6
35 Mr. Alder, driver, pilot engine . .. .. 104 4 6
36 Mr. Burch, fireman, pilot engine .. .. 104 4 6
37 Detective-Constable Ward .. .. .. .. 100 0 0
38 Senior-Constable Johnston .. .. .. .. 97 15 9
39 Mr. Bowman, engine driver .. .. .. .. 84 4 6
40 Mr. Hallows .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 84 4 6
41 Mr. Bell, guard .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 84 4 6
42 Mr. Coleman, engine driver .. .. .. 68 3 4
43 Mr. Stewart, fireman .. .. .. .. .. 68 3 4
44 Senior-Constable Mullane .. .. .. .. 47 15 9
45 Constable Glenny .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
46 Constable McColl .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
47 Constable Meagor .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
48 Constable Armstrong (one of the four police at Sherritt’s when the latter was shot by Byrne) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
49 Constable Dowling (who was under the bed at Sherritt’s) .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
50 Constable Duross (also under the bed at Sherritt’s) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
51 Constable Alexander (one of the four at Sherritt’s when the latter was shot) 42 15 9
52 Constable McHugh .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
53 Constable Wickham .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
54 John Sherritt .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
55 Constable Dwyer .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
56 Constable Stone .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
57 Constable McDonald .. .. .. .. .. 42 15 9
58 Hero, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
59 Johnny, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
60 Jimmy, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
61 Jacky, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
62 Barney, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
63 Moses, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
64 Spider, blacktracker .. .. .. .. .. .. 50 0 0
65 Mr. Cheshire .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 25 0 0
66 Mr. Osborne .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 25 0 0
Total .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. £8000 0 0
The following claims (24) for the reward were refused:—
Schedule “A.” — Anton Weekes, Richard Rule, George Stephens, Anne Sherritt, Ellen Sherritt, Senior-Constable Patrick Walsh, Constable John Coghlan, Constable Robert Griffin, Constable Robert Bunker, Constable Thomas Walsh, ex-Constable Perkins, Constable J. W. Brown, Constable W. Parker, Constable J. Burton, Senior-Constable Shahan, Constable Hugh Stewart, Constable Skehan, Lawrence Kirwin (police spy), B. C. Williams (police spy), Constable Faulkiner, Constable McIntyre, Mr. Laing, S.M., Wangaratta; Mr. Saxe, P.M., Benalla; Mr. Stephen, S.M., Benalla.
The last five-mentioned claimants, although refused any part of the reward by the Board, were, under Schedule “C,” recommended as worthy of special recognition for services rendered during the period of the search for the outlaws.
The Reward Board stated in its report:— “Some rewards have also been recommended for the individual service of certain claimants whose names will be found in Schedule ‘D’; but beyond these the Board have not thought in within their province to distinguish further between members of a force, all of whom appear to have done their duty.”
SCHEDULE “D” — SPECIAL REWARDS.
Thomas Curnow, schoolmaster; Senior-Constable Kelly; Constable Bracken; Sergeant Steele; Mr. Jesse Dowsett, railway guard; and Senior-Constable Johnston (who set fire to Mrs. Jones’ hotel, where Martin Cherry was lying mortally wounded).
It was not until the publication of the finding of the Royal Commission, which was subsequently appointed to inquire into the management and conduct of the police force during the search for the Kelly Gang of bushrangers, and also the best means of preventing another outbreak, that the nature of the scandal perpetrated by the Reward Board was fully realised.
The Reward Board gave Sergeant Steele £290/13/9 for the part he played in shooting innocent men, women and children who were trying to escape from Mrs. Jones’ hotel at Glenrowan.
The Royal Commission, on the other hand, recommended that Sergeant Steele be reduced to the ranks for cowardice in not following the bushrangers from Wangaratta to the Warby Ranges, when the fresh tracks made by the Kellys were pointed out to him.
The Reward Board gave Supt. Hare £800, although he left the field as soon as he received a wound on the left arm.
The Royal Commission, on the other hand, in a majority report, compared the cowardice of Supt. Hare in running away when wounded in the left arm, with the courage and leadership of Ned Kelly, who, although much more seriously wounded in the instep and arms, stood his ground until 7 o’clock in the morning, when, bravely attempting to rejoin his mates, he was overpowered by numbers. The Royal Commission recommended that Supt. Hare should, therefore, be retired from the police force on pension.
The Reward Board gave the constables who went under the bed at Aaron Sherritt’s, when the latter was shot by Joe Byrne, £42/15/9 each.
The Royal Commission recommended that three of these four policemen be dismissed from the police force for gross cowardice and disobedience.
The fourth had already anticipated this finding, and resigned before the Commission drew up its report.
The Reward Board gave Supt. Sadlier £240/17/3.
The Royal Commission recommended that he be reduced in rank.
The Reward Board gave Mr. Stanhope O’Connor £237/15/-.
The Royal Commission recommended that Mr. Stanhope O’Connor be not again employed in the Victorian Police Force, although the Chief Secretary had intended to make Mr. O’Connor an inspector of police in the North-East district.
Although the action of the police force at Glenrowan, both officers and men, was considered an indelible disgrace to the police force of Victoria, no fewer than forty-five of them participated in the reward.
THE ROYAL COMMISSION.
After the tragedy of Glenrowan, the public press of Victoria was more emphatic than ever in its condemnation of the heads of the police force. As the result of this criticism, the Chief Secretary was requested by Captain Standish to institute a full and complete inquiry into the proceedings and management of the police force from the tragedy at Stringybark Creek in October, 1878, to the destruction of the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan.
Mr. C. H. Nicolson wrote to the Chief Secretary as follows:—
“I have the honour respectfully to request that, before proceeding to acknowledge the services of those engaged in the destruction of the Kelly Gang of outlaws, a searching inquiry be held into the whole circumstances and transactions of the police administration in the North-Eastern district since the Kelly outbreak in October, 1878, and particularly into the circumstances of my recent withdrawal from that district.”
Mr. Stanhope O’Connor also wrote to the Chief Secretary requesting an inquiry.
After considering these three requests, the Government of the day acceded to their wishes and appointed a Royal Commission on March 7, 1881, under letters patent:—
(1) To inquire into the circumstances proceeding and attending the Kelly outbreak.
(2) As to the efficiency of the police to deal with such possible occurrences.
(3) To inquire into the action of the police authorities during the period the Kelly Gang were at large.
(4) The efficiency of the means employed for their capture; and
(5) Generally to inquire into and report upon the present state and organisation of the police force.
The Government appointed a Royal Commission of eight persons, six of whom were members of Parliament:—
Hon. Francis Longmore, M.P., Chairman; W. Anderson, Esq., M.P.; E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.; G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.P.; Jas. Gibb, Esq., M.P.; Hon. J. H. Graves, M.P.; G. W. Hall, Esq., M.P.; G.C. Levy, Esq., C.M.G.
The first meeting of the Commission was held on Tuesday, March 15, 1881, and sat at regular intervals, and visited many centres in the North-East. The evidence given before this Royal Commission was so contradictory and so conflicting that it was very clearly seen that perjury among some of the police force had developed into a fine art.
ROYAL COMMISSION’S REPORT.
“That immediately prior to the Kelly outbreak, and for some time previously, the administration of the police in the North-Eastern district was not satisfactory, either as regards the number and distribution of the constabulary, or the manner in which they were armed and mounted; and that a grave error was committed in abolishing the police station at Glenmore, and in reducing the strength of the stations at Stanley, Yackandandah, Tallangatta, Eldorado and Beechworth.
“That the conduct of Captain Standish, as Chief Commissioner of Police, as disclosed by the evidence brought before the Commissioners, was not characterised either by good judgment or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in Captain Standish’s position. The Commission attribute much of the bad feeling which existed amongst the officers to the want of impartiality, temper, tact and judgment evinced by the Chief Commissioner in his dealings with his subordinates; and they cannot refrain from remarking that many of the charges made by Captain Standish in his evidence before them were disproved by the evidence of other witnesses.
“That Mr. Nicolson, Assistant Commissioner, has shown himself in many respects a capable and zealous officer throughout his career in the force, but he laboured under great difficulties through undue interference on the part of Captain Standish and the jealousy occasioned by that officer’s previous favouritism exhibited towards Supt. Hare. The want of unanimity existing between these officers was the means of preventing any concerted action in important matters, and the interests of the colony greatly suffered thereby. In view of these facts, the Commission do not think that the force would be benefited by reinstating Mr. Nicolson in the office of Acting Chief Commissioner of Police. Further, we recommend that, in consequence of his age and impaired constitution, which suffered through hardships endured in the late Kelly pursuit, Mr. Nicolson be allowed to retire on his superannuation allowance.
“That the charge made by Supt. Hare in his report of July 2, 1880, that Mr. Nicolson, Assistant Commissioner, ‘gave me (Hare) no verbal information whatever when at Benalla,’ is disproved by the evidence.
“That Superintendent Hare’s services in the police force have been praiseworthy and creditable, but nothing special has been shown in his actions that would warrant the Commission in recommending his retention in the force, more especially when the fact is so patent that the ‘strained relations’ between himself and Mr. Nicolson have had such a damaging influence on the effectiveness of the service. This feeling is not likely to be mitigated after what has transpired in the evidence taken before the Commission; and we would therefore recommend that Mr. Hare be allowed to retire from the force as though he had attained the age of 55 years, and, owing to the wound that he received at Glenrowan, that he receive an additional allowance of £100 per annum, under Clause 29 of the Police Statute, No. 476.
“That the evidence discloses that Supt. Sadleir was guilty of several errors of judgment while assisting in the pursuit of the Kelly Gang; that his conduct of operations against the outlaws at Glenrowan was not judicious or calculated to raise the police force in the estimation of the public; that the Commission are further of opinion that the treatment of Senior-Constables Kelly and Johnston by Supt. Sadleir was harsh and unmerited; and the Commission recommend that Supt. Sadleir be placed at the bottom of the list of superintendents when the changes necessitated in the force by the recommendations of the Commission have been carried out.
“That a most favourable opportunity of capturing the outlaws at a very early period of their career in crime, namely, on November 4, 1878, was lost, owing to the indolence and incompetence of Inspector Brook-Smith. Your Commission consider that Inspector Brook-Smith committed a serious blunder in not having started in pursuit of the outlaws immediately upon receiving information of the gang having been seen passing under the bridge at Wangaratta, and also in not having properly followed up the tracks of the outlaws in the Warby Ranges, a proceeding which would have warranted your Commission in recommending his dismissal from the force. Your Commissioners, however, having in view his former efficiency, recommend that Inspector Brook-Smith be called on to retire on a pension of £100 per annum.
“That, in the opinion of the Commission, Detective Ward, while he rendered active and efficient service during the pursuit of the gang, was guilty of misleading his superior officers upon several occasions, more especially in connection with Mr. Nicolson’s cave party, Supt. Hare’s hut party, and the telegram forwarded to Senior-Constable Mullane by Mr. Nicolson when the latter was superseded on June 2, 1880. The Commission therefore recommend that Detective Ward be censured and reduced one grade.
“That in the opinion of your Commissioners, the conduct of Sergeant Steele was highly censurable in neglecting to take action when, on November 4, 1878, he received reliable information that the outlaws had been observed on the previous morning passing under the one-mile bridge at Wangaratta. Although despatched on special duty, there seems no reason why, having under his command at the time a large body of troopers, he should not have gone immediately in pursuit. The tracks were plainly discernible; the men observed were undoubtedly the outlaws, and had they been followed they must have been overtaken in the Warby Ranges, inasmuch as their horses and themselves were exhausted in their journey to and from the Murray. Sergeant Steele had full power to act upon his own discretion, and there can be little doubt that, had he exhibited judgment and promptitude on that occasion, he would have been the means of capturing the gang, and preventing the loss of life and the enormous expenditure of money incurred subsequently in the extermination of the gang. Your Commissioners therefore recommend that Sergeant Steele be reduced to the ranks.
“That the constables who formed the hut party on the night of Aaron Sherritt’s murder, viz., Henry Armstrong, William Duross, Thomas Patrick Dowling and Robert Alexander, were guilty of disobedience of orders and gross cowardice, and that the three latter — Constable Armstrong having resigned — be dismissed from the service.
“That the entries made by Supt. Sadleir in the record sheets of Senior-Constables Kelly and Johnston be cancelled, and the Commission recommend these members of the force to the favourable consideration of the Government for promotion.
“That the Commission approve of the action taken by Constable Bracken when imprisoned by the Kelly Gang in Mrs. Jones’ hotel at Glenrowan, and recommend him for promotion in the service.
“That in consequence of the reprehensible conduct of Mr. Wallace, the State school teacher, during the Kelly pursuit, and his alleged sympathy with the outlaws, together with the unsatisfactory character of his evidence before the Commission, your Commissioners think it very undesirable that Mr. Wallace should be retained in any department of the public service. We therefore recommend his immediate dismissal from the Education Department.
“That the conduct of Mr. Thos. Curnow, State school teacher, in warning the special train from Benalla to Beechworth on the morning of June 28, 1880, whereby a terrible disaster, involving probably the loss of many lives, was averted, deserves the highest praise, and the Commission strongly recommend that his services receive special recognition on the part of the Government.
The Commission desire to record their approval of the conduct of Mr. C. H. Rawlings during the attack upon the outlaws, and consider that his services deserve some consideration at the hands of the Government.
“The Commision desire also to express their approval of the assistance rendered to the police at Glenrowan by the members of the Press present.
“That your Commissioners desire to record their marked appreciation of the courtesy and promptitude displayed by the Queensland Government in forwarding a contingent of native trackers to Victoria to aid in the pursuit of the outlaws. We take this opportunity of expressing our approval of the services of the blacktrackers as a body, and deeply regret that any misunderstanding amongst the officers in command of operations in the North-Eastern District led to unpleasant complications.
“The Queensland contingent did good service, and your Commissioners trust the Victorian Government will not fail to accord them proper recognition.”
DR. DIXON’S MINORITY REPORT.
Mr. E. J. Dixon, J.P., one of the Royal Commissioners, was not satisfied with the attitude taken up by the majority of the Commission in recommending the removal of Supt. Hare from the police force. He then wrote a minority report, in which he claimed that Supt. Hare should be allowed to return to duty. His advocacy of Supt. Hare’s claim for reinstatement resembled a paraphrase of the official report put in by Supt. Hare after the capture of Ned Kelly at Glenrowan. In that report Supt. Hare lauded himself to the skies to such an extent that its correctness was openly and earnestly challenged by other officers of the police force. Mr. Dixon’s minority report so angered Messrs. Francis Longmore, George Wilson Hall, George Randall Fincham, and William Anderson, that they, as the majority of the Commission, replied as follows:—
“Mr. Dixon’s protest should be found a mere paraphrase of portions of Supt. Hare’s official report, which has been the source of so much mischief, and which we have no hesitation in declaring to be in its essential features a mere tissue of egotism and misrepresentation. There seems every reason to believe that Supt. Hare was throughout in direct collusion with Captain Standish in the petty and dishonourable persecution to which Mr. Nicolson was subjected for many years while endeavouring to honestly discharge his duties to the best of his ability.
“Captain Standish described Nicolson’s report as ‘twaddle’; Hare describes it as ‘infernal bosh.’
“Hare’s letter in reply to Nicolson:— ‘I would suggest to Mr. Nicolson the advisability of his devoting his attention to answering the serious charges preferred by witnesses examined before the Commission against himself, instead of attempting to find fault with my conduct. — Francis Hare, 26/9/81.’
“Comparisons may be odious, but it cannot fail to strike one as singular that, while Supt. Hare felt himself obliged to leave his post and return to Benalla, under the impression that the wound in his wrist would prove fatal, the leader of the outlaws, with a bullet wound lodged in his foot and otherwise wounded in the extremities, was enabled to hold his ground, encumbered, too, by iron armour, until seven o’clock, when, in the effort to rejoin his companions, he fell overpowered by numbers.
“Supt. Hare’s bill against the Government for surgical attendance amounted to £607, about £480 of which was paid to his relative, Dr. Charles Ryan; while this officer was being petted and coddled on all sides, and a special surgeon dispatched almost daily some thirty miles by train to attend him, the Government questioned the payment of £4/4/- for the treatment of one of the blacktrackers who had received a wound in the head at Glenrowan.”
GEORGE WILSON HALL.
GEORGE RANDALL FINCHAM.
Hon. J. H. Graves did not sign the report because he had to give evidence as a witness before the Commission.
Kelly sympathisers were arrested and thrown into gaol for over three months because they looked at the police or watched them. Now, what would have happened to Messrs. Longmore, Hall, Fincham and Anderson if they had spoken as above immediately prior to the arrest of the Kelly sympathisers? They, too, should have been arrested as sympathisers and thrown into gaol.
It is surprising, therefore, that the Royal Commission did not refer in its report to the illegal arrest of twenty free men as Kelly sympathisers, and the outrage perpetrated by Supt. Hare in keeping these men, unlawfully, in gaol from January 2, 1879, to April 22 of the same year.
It is also very surprising that the Royal Commission did not censure the conduct of Sergeant Steele at Glenrowan. Apparently the attempted murder of Mrs. Reardon, her baby and her son by Sergeant Steele were not as serious in the judicial minds of these four politicians as Steele’s neglect to follow the tracks of the Kellys from Wangaratta to Warby Ranges. It is very clear that the anti-Kelly prejudice was so firmly rooted in the minds of the so-called ruling class of that day that while they connived at police rapacity, they mildly censured police cowardice and perjury.
There was evidently one law for the police and another for high-spirited civilians.
Now, if these four Commissioners were so very angry with the heads of the police force — Captain Standish and Supt. Hare — merely because Commissioner E. J. Dixon spoke or wrote on their behalf, what would they not have done had they received but one-half of the provocation or persecution and injustice to which the Kellys had been subjected by the bench and the police?
Even after fifty years the bias of the Government does not seem to have appreciably diminished. Mr. David Gaunson was hounded down, in 1880, for speaking on behalf of Ned Kelly, and on 12th April, 1929, the Government, through its departmental heads, brought its brutality to a fitting climax by failing to make provision to prevent the desecration of his grave in a manner that would cause a nation of savages to feel ashamed. In connection with this horror, the author wrote to the Hon. the Chief Secretary (Dr. Argyle) as follows:—
68 McCracken Street,
16th April, 1929.
To the Honorable,
The Chief Secretary,
The Desecration of the Grave of Ned Kelly.
Dear Sir, — It was with intense feelings of horror that I read of the hunnish desecration of Ned Kelly’s grave, and I hasten to congratulate you on the commendable action you propose to take to, in some way, counteract the outrage committed on the remains of one whose penitential dispositions before death earned for him the forgiveness of his sins, and the right to receive the last rites of his Church.
It would be well, in this Christian community, for our Governmental heads to recognise Christian principles, and regard Ned Kelly as he now appears before his Creator, and cease condemning him on the refuted testimony of the various Judas Iscariots, whose perjury sold him for so many pieces of silver.
“The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers” has been eagerly bought up, and is now in the second edition, and read by the people of Australia, who are now, for the first time, in a position to form a correct judgment on the virtues and vices of both sides — the Kellys on the one side, and the Judiciary and Police on the other.
Ned Kelly’s heroism in defending his mother’s integrity, his sister’s honour, and his brother’s innocence, has claimed for him a place in the hearts of fair-minded people of Australia.
Would it not, therefore, be a gracious act on your part to hand over the remains of Ned Kelly, when removed from the “head-hunters,” to his only surviving brother, Mr. Jim Kelly, of Greta, for interment in consecrated grounds?
J. J. KENNEALLY.
[The Chief Secretary, The Hon. Dr. S. S. Argyle, M.L.A., replied on 19/4/1929 that he had no power to authorise the adoption of this suggestion. — Ed.]
THE POLICE PURGE.
The forced retirement of Captain Standish (retired on age limit), Supt. C. H. Nicolson, Supt. F. A. Hare, Inspector Brook-Smith, Constable Duross, Constable Dowling, and Constable Alexander was recommended in the report of the Kelly Gang Royal Commission. Constable Armstrong got his resignation in before the report was issued.
REVIEW BY JIM KELLY, ONLY SURVIVING BROTHER OF NED AND DAN KELLY.
Eleven Mile Creek,
Dear Mr. Kenneally, — I have read your book, “The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers,” with a great deal of satisfaction, and I must congratulate you on having rendered a great service in the cause of TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
I purposely delayed reviewing your book in order to give the enemy an opportunity to challenge any part, section, or sentence of it; but as no such challenger has appeared on the horizon, I take it that your book is freely admitted to be unchallengable.
You are the only author who has the courage to do justice to the Kelly Gang; you have liberated the truth, so long suppressed, regarding the policy and administration of the police; through your book the people of Australia are now in full possession of the truth. You must have gone to no end of trouble, and displayed great patience, judgment, and tact in collecting inside official police and judicial documents and information, in order to let the world at large see for themselves how the various members of my family had been hounded down by the heads, as well as by the rank and file, of the police force. Some members of the Judiciary, too, were so strongly prejudiced against the Kellys that the law was, not infrequently, strangled and violated in order to give vent to Judicial bias. This is shown by you very clearly in the cases of two police magistrates — W. H. Foster and Alfred Wyatt — and Judge Barry.
In the case of Barry, the challenge of my brother Ned to meet him (Barry) before a higher court seemed to have preyed on a guilty conscience, to such an extent that Barry died a few days after Ned Kelly.
My brother Ned holds a very unique position among the great men of the world. Great men are proclaimed great almost exclusively by their friends, supporters, sympathisers, and admirers; but you have proved that my brother, Ned Kelly, was proclaimed the greatest man in the world by his bitterest enemy.
I am proud of my brothers, Ned and Dan, and now that your book is fast displacing the various dishonest publications, the overwhelming majority of Australians are ardent admirers of Ned’s unsurpassed courage, manly manhood, and high moral character.
The name of my brother Dan has been used freely for sordid gain by a gang of impostors, as well as by the underworld of the journalistic profession. Some correspondence appeared recently in a Melbourne paper, in which it was claimed that my brother Dan had escaped from the siege of Glenrowan. This fabrication is set at rest by the sworn testimony, given verbatim in your book, by the Very Rev. Dean Gibney (afterwards Bishop of Perth, W.A.), who is rightly described as “The Hero of Glenrowan.” In his evidence this hero described how he entered the burning hotel, and how he found the dead body of Joe Byrne, in armour, and how, in another room, he found two more dead bodies in armour. The Very Rev. Gentleman went to administer to the wounded or dying, and he described in detail how he had examined the bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, and when he was satisfied that they were both dead, and therefore beyond human aid, he went out at the back of the hotel and announced: “They are all dead.”
I myself have been impersonated by depraved impostors. A bookseller (canvasser) in Sydney passed himself off as “Jim Kelly,” brother of Ned Kelly. He was a short, stout man, whereas I am over 6 feet in height. He told a tale that he was not allowed to live in Greta, whereas I have not been away from Greta for over 50 years.
A statement appeared recently in a Melbourne paper that a fellow named Brown claimed to be my brother, Dan Kelly. Now, there are certain marks on the body of my brother Dan by which I can identify him if he were still alive, but any impostor will give me a wide berth, because I can destroy the impostor’s field of exploitation so favoured by the lowest stratum of the “white” race.
For filthy lucre mercenary writers have, from time to time, indulged in outrageous libels against the Kellys. These unfortunates still cling to the belief that judicial bias is as strong as ever, and that I have no chance of getting a fair deal in a claim for libel in the “law courts.” Your book has so encouraged me that I intend to deal drastically, in the future, with every libeller of my family.
“The Girl Who Helped Ned Kelly.” This book is another example of mercenary journalism. My brother Ned was so devoted to his mother that he had no “girl.” Of course, the author of the book above referred to protected himself by calling his concoction “a novel.” A more recent concoction is being published in a daily paper for the purpose of increasing or maintaining its circulation.
As an effective exterminator of the hive of journalistic wasps, your book would have been a great consolation to my dear mother if it had been published before her death. I regret that my mother is not alive to see her family so completely vindicated by your book.
Wishing that your book will be found in every home in Australia.
(Signed) JAMES KELLY.
21 Charles Street, Benalla.
Dear Mr. Kenneally, —
I have read your book, “The Complete Inner History of The Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers” several times, and I am fully convinced that it is the only real and reliable history of the Kellys ever published. I desire to commend and thank you, not only for giving my cousins fair play, but also for your very successful work in the cause of Truth and Justice. The Kelly Gang has been a profitable field for exploitation so favoured by the underworld of storytellers, authors, and the Enemy Press. Your book not only gives a faithful description of the “Inner Life” of my cousins, Ned and Dan, but it also gives, for the first time, the Inner History of the Police Force, from the Chief Commissioner down to the latest recruits in the rank and file. This well merited exposure was necessary in order to give the reader a correct view of the cruel and cowardly persecution to which my belayed relatives had been subjected.
To protect themselves against this persecution, my cousins were compelled to follow the example of Peter Lalor — the hero of the Eureka Stockade — and offer armed resistance to the police force.
Your fearless exposure of the perjury and reckless bias of the judiciary is highly appreciated by every fair-minded citizen in Australia. You have handed down the names of Judge Sir Redmond Barry, Alfred Wyatt and Wm. Henry Foster to posterity as specimens of those in high places whose disregard for the oaths they had taken, was equalled only by their savage abuse of the power they wielded. The Government of the Colony of Victoria is also shown in its true colours for the number of crimes committed against the laws it was sworn to obey, uphold and enforce.
The Outlawry Act gave my relatives the same right to use the privileges and forms of war as those used by the Government in my relatives’ fight for Justice and Freedom. While the Police used the forms and privileges of war in an illegal, savage and ruthless manner, Ned Kelly exercised the same privileges in a most gentlemanly way as shown in his courtesy to women at Euroa and Jerilderie. Apart from the police and the low foul-mouthed Aaron Sherritt, the Kellys offered violence to no man and insult to no woman. It was because of a foul-mouthed threat made to Joe Byrne’s mother that the latter shot Aaron Sherritt, and not because he was a police spy. How very differently did the police act at the siege of Glenrowan when men, women and children were the victims of savage brutality by the police.
It has been demonstrated by you that Policy and not Justice was the guiding star of Government heads and police superintendents. As a matter of policy, 22 free men, including my brother, Joseph Ryan, were illegally and unlawfully arrested and detained in gaol from January 2nd to April 22nd, 1879, without any charge or evidence being brought against them. As a matter of Policy, Ned Kelly was convicted before he was tried; he was refused a change of underclothing during the farce staged as a preliminary trial at Beechworth. As a matter of Policy, Ned Kelly’s sister — Mrs. Skillion — was refused an interview with him. This interview was absolutely necessary to arrange more fully for his successful defence. As a matter of Policy, irrelevantly extraneous matter was wrongfully and illegally admitted as evidence to make his conviction a certainty. As a matter of Policy, governmental heads employed a University Professor, whose cut and dried duty it was to examine, after death, Ned Kelly’s head, and declare that his brain development was only equal to that of a boy of 14 years old.
Now, if that were true, then the brain development of Captain Standish, Supts. Hare, Nicolson, Sadlier and Inspectors Brook-Smith, Pewtress, etc., etc., could not have had a greater brain development than an average boy of seven years old.
Your book is indeed complete, even to the giving of the names of those who, having received some of the “Blood Money,” were afterwards branded by the Royal Commission as cowardly ruffians.
With kindest regards,
(Signed) JAMES RYAN,
21 Charles Street, Benalla.
J. J. Kenneally, The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers, Melbourne: J. Roy Stevens, 5th edition, 1946 [first published 1929], pages 296-315
Later editions of the book included, in chapter 21 (to accompany his letter), a photograph taken of Jim Kelly in 1945:
[Editor: Corrected “CHAPTER XXII” to “CHAPTER XXI”; “Robret Ramsay” to “Robert Ramsay”; “arrest and Kelly sympathisers” to “arrest of the Kelly sympathisers”; “penetential” to “penitential”; “seige” to “siege”. Added a question mark after “consecrated grounds”.]