Introduction [The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers, by J. J. Kenneally]

[Editor: This is the introduction section from The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers (5th edition, 1946) by J. J. Kenneally.]


In presenting this Fourth Edition of “THE INNER HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG AND THEIR PURSUERS” to my readers, I desire to make known the unquestionable source of my information, and to tender my sincere thanks to all those who, by their encouragement and assistance, enabled me give to the world the only complete, reliable and authentic history ever published of the Kelly Gang and their Pursuers. All previous books and publications were almost exclusively written at the suggestion of that blind national or local prejudice which displayed unspeakable contempt for the sacred virtues, “Truth and Justice.”

A subsequent so-called “New History of the Kellys,” by one J. M. S. Davies, was published in 1930, first in “The Register,” of Adelaide, and later in “The Herald,” of Melbourne, under the title, “The Kellys Are Out.” The solicitors who represented the above two papers freely admitted that “The Kellys Are Out” was a wholesale infringement of my copyright. They not only paid compensation to me, but they also gave me written undertakings not to again use, publish, sell, assign or transfer to anyone the matter illegally and unlawfully taken from my book.

In 1934 the “Herald” published a Centenary History of Victoria by Roy Bridges, who ignored my copyright to such. an extent that the “Herald” paid me its second cheque for breach of copyrght. This was the second offence to which the “Herald” pleaded guilty.

Imitation is said to be the sincerest flattery, and it is the best proof that “The Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers” is the only authentic, complete and reliable account of the Kellys and the police that has ever been published.

The information necessary to enable me to write “The Inner History of the Kelly Gang” was willingly supplied by members of the Kelly family and those relatives who were actively engaged in protecting their kith and kin from being betrayed for “blood money” by their enemies.

The Providore was the chief scout and confidential assistant of the Kellys, and he was the only living person who was able to give me, in detail, their policy, programme and actual performances. I, therefore, acknowledge with gratitude his indispensable co-operation and information, which resulted in justice, though tardy, being done to the memory of his relatives.

The Providore, Tom Lloyd, a first cousin of Ned Kelly, supplied the Kellys and their two mates with food, clothing, and reliable information while they worked, digging for gold, at Kelly’s Creek, in the Wombat Ranges. He was in close touch with them in all their wanderings; he shared their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows; and he was second only to Ned Kelly in courage, grit, skill, resourcefulness, and unswerving loyalty to his relatives and friends. With about 22 others he was illegally and unlawfully imprisoned for many weeks in the Beechworth Gaol on the charge of being a Kelly sympathiser. As a rough rider he had neither superior nor equal in Australia.

I desire, also, to thank all those who assisted in securing for me the inner history of the police and Government officials who were engaged in the war declared by the Government of Victoria on the 1st November, 1878, against the Kellys, their relatives, friends and sympathisers.

In consequence of the discredit attaching to many of the police of that time, as the result of drastic newspaper criticism and the general opinion that the Kellys had been forced to resist police persecution, a Royal Commission was appointed, shortly after the execution of Ned Kelly, to inquire into (1) the cause of the Kelly outbreak, and (2) the conduct of the police during the Kelly hunt.

Now, if the Kellys were the criminals they were represented to be by the police and the Press, why should the Government have gone to the great expense of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into police misrepresentation of the Kellys and the discreditable conduct of the police before and during the “Kelly Hunt”?

All the evidence was taken on oath, and some even behind closed doors, in order that certain witnesses might speak more freely. I have been fortunate in securing all the sworn evidence given before the Royal Commission, and even the secret evidence taken behind closed doors. It is in the sworn testimony the strongest indictments are made against the police.

The “heads” of the Victorian police force were divided into two hostile factions, and the washing of official “dirty linen” before the Royal Commission was performed with such enthusiastic rivalry that the majority of the Commissioners recommended the removal from the police force of Superintendent Hare, Inspector Brook-Smith and Superintendent Nicolson, while many others were recommended to be either dismissed or reduced in rank.

While admitting that “comparisons may be odious,” the Commissioners compared Ned Kelly’s great courage, skilful leadership and loyalty to his comrades with Superintendent Hare’s lack of courage, faulty judgment and want of leadership when he ran away from the siege of Glenrowan on receiving a wound in the forearm. The Commissioners also made it clear that Superintendent Sadleir displayed unmistakable cowardice, ineptitude and lack of generalship when in charge of the siege of Glenrowan. While smarting under the drastic severity of the Royal Commissioners’ censure, Superintendent Hare undertook to write a book purporting to give an unbiased account of the Kellys and the police. Superintendent Sadlier also wrote a book, in which he attacked the Royal Commissioners and gave a mendacious account of his masterly inactivity, where courage was required, at the siege of Glenrowan.

Several other similar so-called “True Stories of the Kelly Gang” were written with the sole object of denouncing the Kellys and libelling their relatives, neighbours, friends and benefactors. But the most objectional production of all, in book form, was called “Dan Kelly” by Ambrose Pratt. In this book Mr. Ambrose Pratt claimed that Dan Kelly had escaped during the siege of Glenrowan, and, after describing Dan Kelly as an illiterate, he claimed that his sordid concoction was written from the memoirs of Dan Kelly. But on the 28th July, 1934, the same Ambrose Pratt stated in “The ‘Age’s’ Centenary History of Victoria” that Dan Kelly perished at Glenrowan.


For 31 long years after the siege of Glenrowan no one could be found to challenge, or even doubt, the statement of the Very Rev. Dean Gibney, after he had gone through the burning hotel and, emerging from the flames, said: “They are all dead.” This brave priest was the only living person who could give direct evidence of having found three dead men in armour in Mrs. Jones’ hotel at Glenrowan.

At 10 o’clock on the morning of the siege the police were ordered to cease firing, and those who were still in the hotel were given ten minutes in which to come out. Twenty-five men came out and were ordered to lie on their stomachs and hold their hands up while they were examined by the police to make sure that none of the Kelly Gang was among them. These 25 men stated that, besides Martin Cherry, who was wounded, only Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were then alive in the hotel. They stated that Joe Byrne had been shot and had died in a few minutes. At 4 p.m. Dean Gibney accounted for three men in armour — all dead. These three men were Joe Byme, Dan Kelly, and Steve Hart.

Quite a number of impostors have from time to time claimed to be Dan Kelly. With one exception, each of these impostors carefully avoided giving any details about the Kelly family, but the latest claimant, through the columns of a Brisbane weekly paper called “Truth,” threw discretion to the winds and gave details of the Kelly family and the Kelly country, which proved conclusively that the aforesaid Queensland impostor had never, at any time, been in the Kelly country.

This impostor is alleged to be a clever forger who, as a successful confidence victimised a Brisbane editor. I shall give only a few of the “forger’s” fabrications, which can be easily exposed by well-known historical facts.

(I ) The “forger” claimed that he could neither read nor write.

As all the Kellys could read and write except the youngest girl — Grace — “Truth’s” impostor is clean bowled.

(2) He said that “Nora” was the eldest.

As there was no “Nora” in the Kelly family, “Truth” has been willingly or unwillingly victimised by the confidence man.

(3) “Truth’s” protege said he had been born in 1854.

Ned Kelly was born in that year, and, therefore, the impostor is as old as Ned Kelly would be if he were still alive. The real Dan Kelly was born in the year 1861, and was, therefore, seven years younger than Ned.

(4) “Truths” “find” said Ned Kelly came out of Berrima Gaol in 1877.

Official documents clearly prove that Ned Kelly was a free man from 1874 to his capture in 1880 at Glenrowan. Ned Kelly was never in a New South Wales gaol.

(5) The bogus “Dan Kelly” said his father’s name was Ned.

Ned Kelly’s father was John (Red) Kelly.

(6) The bogus Dan said his father went to Goulburn Gaol after leaving Tasmania.

John (Red) Kelly was never in New South Wales.

(7) “Truth’s” “discovery” said he had lived at Benalla, and that Benalla was a small place.

At that time Benalla was the capital of the North-Eastern District of Victoria and the police headquarters for the Kelly country. The impostor was never at Benalla.

(8) The forger said: “The family then was made up, besides the old man, and the old lady, of Nora (the eldest), brother Jim, Ned, myself and Kate (the youngest).”

As stated above, there was no “Nora” in the family, but there was Mary, Annie, Margaret (Mrs. Skillion) and Grace (Mrs. Griffiths), of whom the impostor knew nothing. Jim and Grace are still living at Greta, and would be glad of the opportunity to meet “Truth’s” impostor, who took the same fiendish pleasure in slandering the dead members of their family as “Truth” took in libelling them. Dan Kelly’s father never lived in Greta. He died at Avenel before his widow and eight orphans went to Greta.

(9) While denouncing the Kellys as law breakers, the Melbourne issue of “Truth,” dated 26th August, 1933, reproduced, without my permission, my copyright picture, “The Kellys’ Homestead,” and for this infringement of my copyright “Truth” paid me compensation. Of course, “Truth” boasts that it stands for law and order.

(10) The impostor said the armour was made before the battle of Stringybark Creek, which took place on 26th October, 1878.

The armour was not made until a few weeks before the siege of Glenrowan.

(11) The impostor said that the armour was made of single sheets of steel.

Steve Hart’s armour, at the Melbourne Aquarium, is made of six mouldboards, plus apron and two shoulder caps.

(12) The impostor said that a pitched battle had been fought between the Kellys and the police at Euroa.

The historical fact is that not a shot was fired, and no one in Euroa knew that the bank had been robbed until the Kellys were well on their way to Greta.

(13) The expert forger played on the ignorance of the Brisbane editor, and got away with the yarn that the Kellys stuck-up Cobb and Co.’s coach carrying gold from Bendigo to Melbourne.

The railway between Bendigo and Melbourne had been opened very many years before the Kellys knew the police. No coaches were on that road in the year 1878.

(14) The impostor said that it took the Kellys a fortnight to travel from Melbourne home — a distance of only 132 miles — averaging only 9½ miles per day. An average mob of healthy sheep will cover 10 miles a day, but, according to the impostor, the Kellys, known for the speed with which they moved from one place to another, were slower than a mob of travelling sheep.

(l5) Kellys’ home at Greta was 29 miles from Sherritt’s house, and Benalla was 11 miles from Kellys’ in an opposite direction. Therefore, Benalla was 40 miles from Aaron Sherritt’s house. “Truth’s” impostor said, “Byrne and I went into Benalla, and sought out Sherritt. We found him at his hut and called him to the door.”

If the impostor had ever been in Benalla, he would have known that Sherritt lived 40 miles away, near Beechworth.

(16) The impostor was not aware that Sherritt had been shot on Saturday night, 26th June 1880, and Glenrowan was stuck-up next day (27th June, 1880). He said, “After shooting Sherritt we lay low for a long while, and then Ned got the idea of having a crack at Glenrowan.” He continued, “The whole township (Glenrowan) was nothing more than a few shanties, a bank and a pub.”

There never was a bank at Glenrowan, but there were always two pubs. This proves that “Truth’s” impostor had never been in Glenrowan. He said the hotel had been fired before Ned Kelly was captured. The historical fact is that Ned Kelly was captured at 7 o’clock on Monday morning, 28th June, 1880, and the hotel was fired, in the presence of about 600 people, at 4 p.m. the same day — nine hours after Ned’s capture.

(17) The impostor said he escaped into a ditch near the pub.

Now, the only ditch anywhere in that vicinity was the drain between Mrs. Jones’ hotel and the railway line, which was occupied by the black-trackers and the police. He said that he had been discovered and nursed by a farmer for two months, and that he took the farmer into his confidence and told him that his patient was Dan Kelly. Does it not appear exceedingly strange that during those two months no word was sent to Dan Kelly’s sisters, who were living within 10 miles of the “Good Samaritan’s” home?

No; Dan Kelly did not escape from Glenrowan. He was dead when his body was examined by Very Rev. Dean Gibney, afterwards Bishop of Perth, West Australia.


This play, which was written in blank verse and called “Poetic Drama,” bristles with malicious libels of the dead, who are unable to recover damages in our Law Courts.

With the knowledge of such watertight security, it sometimes happens that degeneration has ample freedom to develop into depravity.

A very much travelled and experienced clergyman — principal of an important institution — saw the play and described it as “Rotten.”

In the review of the Melbourne “Herald,” suggestions are offered, as follow:—

(1) The play should be rewritten.

(2) The objectionable expressions should be cut out altogether, and

(3) It should be freely pruned.

A press report stated that Mrs. Medley, wife of the Vice-Chancellor of the Melbourne University, described the play as detrimental to the moral outlook of young people.

Therefore, the revival of such a diabolical concoction can be effected only by placing MONEY before MORALS; OBSCENITY before DECENCY; the foulness of FALSEHOOD before TRUTH; and BLASPHEMY before REVERENCE.



Clow Library, 38 Hayes Street, Queanbeyan, N.S.W.

October 28, 1944.

Mr. J. J. Kenneally,
Essendon, Victoria.

Dear Sir,

“I was indeed highly delighted to receive your most gracious epistle of the 24th inst., and I would like to say, at the outset, that I regard it as a great compliment you pay me, coming as it does, from a gentleman of higher and much greater standing in the literary world than I have attained; and whose judgment and opinions in matters respecting the Kelly family would likely be of greater importance to the world and posterity than any thoughts of mine. I would however ask your notice to the following that I have received from others as touching the characters of some of the Kelly party, and please accept my assurance that I have delivered to you as it was given to me.”

“Something over fifty years ago I was in company with others in conversation with a lady neighbour who, as a girl, went to school with Steve Hart. The master had a method of giving each week marks to the best behaved boy of the school. At the weekend he was stood out on the floor of the school before the rest of the scholars, as a model of good behaviour, and was allowed to go an hour before the school was out. The lady remarked she remembered Steven Hart often being awarded the honor of being placed on the floor for the admiration of the other scholars, as the best behaved boy of the school.”

“Thirty years ago I attended an Evangelical Convention held in the Lygon Street Christian Church, Melbourne. A delegate sat opposite me at the dinner provided in the Sunday School. The gentleman appeared to me, by the deep wrinkles in his forehead, to be well over eighty years of age. His name was Mr. J. Ingram. He was the keeper of a booksellers’ shop at Beechworth, and then occupied the position of Police Magistrate in the district for over forty years. He had the remarkable record of never giving one single decision on the Bench that was ever reversed in a higher court. As he spoke of the long duration of his stay in that locality, I commenced in thought to reckon back, and said impressively: ‘Why, you must have been there at the time of the Kellys.’ He replied: ‘I was; I was well acquainted with Ned Kelly long before he took to the bush. He was, in his usual manner, of a quiet unassuming disposition — a polite and gentlemanly man. I would not have been at all afraid to have met Ned Kelly in the bush anywhere’.

“I asked the old gentleman if he had known anything of the Byrne’s Family. He answered: ‘I did; Joe Byrne, when he was a lad, frequently came into my shop. He was a very nice little fellow; he was well behaved, and there was never anything in his deportment that anyone could take exception to.’”

“You are free to make use of the testimony of these two people, Mr. Kenneally, in any statement you issue to the public, and to attach my name thereunto as the recorder.

“I remain,

“Yours sincerely,


Site near Kelly’s Camp on Kelly’s Creek. Note the man’s mysterious face showing in the midst of the foliage.

Site near Kelly’s Camp on Kelly’s Creek. Note the man’s mysterious face showing in the midst of the foliage

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 9-16

Editor’s notes:

[Editor: Corrected “denouncing the Kelly” to “denouncing the Kellys”; “as successful” to “as a successful”; “Queenbeyean” to “Queanbeyan”. Quotation mark added after “youngest).” Comma added after “his forehead” and “was a lad”.]

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