Updated April 20, 2004

Marian is an enthusiastic amateur historian whose obsession with the Kelly story began on 21st October 1980 - the evening the first episode of "The Last Outlaw" was screened. She has a simple ambition - to know everything about Ned.

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For Ned
by Marian Matta

Many years ago, when I was first trying to get a grip on the life and times of Ned Kelly, I wrote to Ian Jones and, in passing, described him as a Kelly expert. In his reply, Ian said he was a Kelly student and hoped to remain so, his point being that there is always something new to learn about Ned and the gang.

This may seem unlikely - after all, virtually every aspect has been explored, analysed, pulled apart and put together again. So what's left? The surprising answer is "quite a lot". If you share my ambition to know absolutely everything, then you'll find plenty of material tucked away in books, newspapers, archives and so forth. Much of it is utterly trivial or of dubious accuracy but part of the challenge is sorting the wheat from the chaff.

While the best places to do such research are still Melbourne and North-east Victoria, more and more material is becoming available on-line. For example, Gary Dean and Dagmar Balcarek are slowly uploading some fabulous and hard-to-get resources. Such sites are listed on the LINKS pages of Bailup, Iron Outlaw, etc. It's now possible to do meaningful research whether you are in Northeast Victoria, Northamptonshire or North Carolina.

The holdings of the Victorian Public Records Office demonstrate how there is still potentially much to be discovered. Most of you will be familiar with Ned Online, the wonderful site containing digitised images of some of the PRO's Kelly resources complete with helpful transcriptions. To access the full collection, however, you have to visit the PRO's own site where all five series of Kelly Papers are being uploaded. This in itself is enough to keep a Kelly fan deliriously happy - such gems as a report that Ned, complete with goatee beard, had been spotted on a Collingwood bus, or another report stating that he had been drinking in a north-east pub, clean-shaven but with a false beard!

But there's more beyond even the Kelly Papers. If you want to find the original reports of the August 1870 incident which landed Ned's uncles Pat and Jimmy Quinn in gaol with a bit of help from Ned, you'll find them in the boxes of Police Correspondence. There, among others, is Senior Constable Hall's characteristic third-person report which includes the passage;

"...Hall went to within a few yards of Quinn who was standing. What do you mean Quinn, by such conduct? Quinn replied he was a gentleman and always behaved himself as such and defied the former to interfere with him and that at the same time he (SC) might put his nose in his a[rse]. The SC then told him he would put him in the lodgings if he made use of such language. He turned. Quinn commenced shouting like a madman..."

and so on. Ned's letter to Babbington was found in the Police Correspondence files in the 1980s and who knows what else may be tucked away? We can't all hope to find previously unknown material but we can have the joy of reading bits and pieces that have never made it into published works.

There are innumerable tangents leading off from the main story, waiting to be explored. Justin Corfield's remarkable "Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia" demonstrates what can happen when you get the bit between your teeth. Getting a book published is beyond the reach of most of us but fortunately the Internet is an egalitarian medium - if you've got something to present you can usually find a forum for it, and if you disagree with someone else's conclusions there's always feedback pages to make your point. The best-known Kelly books - those by Jones, Brown, McMenomy, McQuilton, Molony, etc - aren't written in isolation; their authors don't start from scratch - they utilise the work of others as well as their own undoubted skills. We can all contribute in some way.

A while ago I sounded off in Ironoutlaw's Feedback section (31 Jan 03) about how good it would be if everyone shared their Kelly research and I guess I should put my research where my mouth is. Sadly, I don't have a hidden stash of information on Ned and company - how I wish I did! Virtually everything I know is on the public record, one way or another. The following piece "Day Trip To The Dandenongs" doesn't amount to much but at least it's more interesting than a few "leads" I've chased which ended up going absolutely nowhere. This particular story was mentioned in the very first publication about Ned that I bought, back in 1980. In the booklet that accompanied the TV mini-series The Last Outlaw there was a brief reference to the gang tracking a horse to Emerald. As this was my local shopping centre I was naturally curious! Several years later, after a nudge in the right direction by Ian Jones (who refers to the incident in A Short Life) I finally gathered the story together.

And why did I title this rave about research "For Ned"? Because many of us feel we aren't just doing this work for ourselves or the general public - in some weird way we're also doing it for Ned, as if we can somehow show him that his voice was heard, that some people, then and now, did understand what he was trying to say. So, this little piece of writing is "for Ned".

First Published 20th April, 2004

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