|Kelly aficionado Dave White has spent many years researching and collecting 'Kellyana'. His passion is the Glenrowan siege and he enjoys sharing his opinions. Thus he wrote the 'Dave Reports' www.glenrowan1880.com|
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Dave's commentary on The
Ned Kelly Documentary'Outlawed'
Outlawed: The Real Ned Kelly, a docudrama exploring the myths and enduring values of the outlaw variously hailed as a freedom-fighter, revolutionary, thug, murderer and colonial terrorist. Source: The Age
On the 6th of August a new
documentary was shown on the ABC. Overall it was an informative and interesting
docudrama. However as you will hear it did have one major flaw, a person
named Bantick. It had interviews with two of Ned descendants, Noeleen
Lloyd (Lloyd and Hart) & David Griffiths (Ned was his great
Uncle) both still live in Kelly country. We also met a descendant of a
couple of prisoners held in the Glenrowan Inn, Judith Douthie (descendent
of Curnow & Mortimer).
For the benefit of those who either missed or cannot gain access to this film I shall go over what was said and what in my opinion they got either right or wrong:
The film starts off with the face of a man being covered with wet strips of plaster in order to make a mould, a death mask in fact. The man is Ned Kelly and a mask is being made of his clean shaven head. Narrated by well known and respected Australian actor Jack Thompson the story begins. The image of Neds death mask is shown interspersed with shots of the siege at Glenrowan and much more. The question is asked, was Ned Kelly the greatest rebel hero or just a murderous thug? The claim is made that time is running out to question the myth.
The first person to be interviewed
was Noeleen Lloyd, it was someone saying hey we need
to have a go this is our country, we have come out from a place of oppression
and if its not right then we can fight for it.
Narrator: "The Kellys
were up against the big boys, the squatters
who were always after more land and if the Kellys failed the squatters
would get the land."
We now see a fine old Victorian
building, The Melbourne Club. The Melbourne Club was the
place for the rich and influential to meet. According to Ann Galbally,
it was the unofficial power center of Melbourne. Big squatters
mingling with Police and Judges.
Narrator: "No one has ever gotten to the bottom of what happened when Fitzpatrick arrived at the Kelly house to arrest Dan." Both his and Neds version of the fracas are shown and described with re-enactments. "For a policeman in trouble with his superiors it was a gift on a plate."
Professor McQuilton, says that the Chief Commissioner (Standish) does not believe Fitzpatrick, but that does not matter. It is still attempted murder. Ned & Dan fled but Mrs. Kelly was sentenced to three years hard labour with her baby at breast.
letter. The writing
of this famous letter is reenacted as Ned dictates to Joe. Narrator: "Ned
claims he was not even at home during the Fitzpatrick fracas, but what
if the criminal profiling techniques of today could cast their forensic
gaze on history and discover once and for all what happened that night."
Narrator: "The Kelly girls had to fend for themselves." David Griffiths claims that the police poisoned the dam to stop Ned watering his horse if visiting which resulted in the death of the family cow, preventing them from getting any milk.
Creek Narrator: "Ned and Dan retreated to the Wombat Ranges
to escape and were joined by Joe Byrne and Steve Hart." Unfortunately
we are told nothing of the hard work undertaken by the 4 men in clearing
20 acres of land and undertaking gold mining. Similarly we hear nothing
of Neds years of work at the saw mill.
(At this stage the Kelly gang was not a 'gang' they were just 4 young men, 2 of whom were on the run.) We see a re-enactment of the death of Lonigan. The other two officers return and are taken by surprise. Within a matter of minutes both are killed. One policeman escapes with his life. One officer is hit and falls from a moving horse, Sgt Kennedy is executed, without the chase that actually occurred. The episode here was not fully explained. Perhaps the producer should have read what the survivor, McIntyre said about the affair. He did not believe the Kellys were there to kill in cold blood as this doco appeared to show.
Professor McQuilton shows us the weaponry the police took to Stringybark Creek and more importantly the undertakers straps used to carry bodies back from the expedition. Kelly believed he would be brought in dead rather than alive.
Bantick There is no doubt that if you are actually going to hunt down someone like Ned Kelly and his gang you dont go out with pea shooters you go out heavily armed. Lets take a step back for a moment here. What had Ned actually done to deserve such a hunt? On the word of a liar he was supposed to have wounded a policeman. and you go out with body bags completing exactly what you were being asked to do and what the hell was that then? Were they being asked to collect 4 bodies or capture 4 men? and Ned Kelly would have expected them to be heavily armed and to try and blast their way out of a potential ambush or indeed take him, that was the way he operated The way he operated? Give us all a break! Ned Kelly was heavily armed as well Get your facts straight Bantick, he was not heavily armed at all.
Senior Constable Mick Kennedy. He describes his younger days playing with cap guns and how this one day upset his Grandfather, whose dad was killed by Ned. He discusses how scary it must have been for the police out in the Wombat forest. Reproduction footage showed us Australias first crime scene photos. Note however that the photo shown of Kennedys body was an actor not the actual slain officer, the same goes for the pictures of McIntyre surrendering.
Kennedy says that the poor buggers, they would barely have had time to think let alone draw a gun or do anything about it. In fact if you read McIntyres account of what transpired you will see that the men were given a chance to surrender and were called to bailup. Whether or not they would have been killed had they given up is a separate argument.
The narrator tells us that
Mick is now ready to give us new "incontrovertible evidence"
that Ned didnt act in self-defence. That it was cold blooded murder.
(Ned had supposedly killed the Sgt just to steal his watch?) My ears pricked
up and I was thinking I was in for a treat of something new, I was to
be disappointed. The new evidence was nothing more than the
fact that Ned had stolen the dead Sgts watch. So what? He had just
killed the poor policeman, would taking his watch have him hung any more
than the killing would? No these 4 men would now hang no matter what,
so what difference would stealing items from the bodies matter to men
in such a position.
and Sympathisers Ned and the gang were declared 'outlaws'.
Anyone suspected of aiding the gang was denied land. David Griffiths showed
us a map of the original area. He said that most of the surrounding people
were simply neighbours who actually knew the gang. Just before harvest
time sympathisers were locked up.
They robbed the Euroa and Jerilderie banks. We are shown some old-fashioned styled home movies of what Jerilderie looks like today. How the bank is now a petrol station. Professor McQuilton explained that the raid had farce and humour. The police were locked in their own cells, they charge things up to the government and wore police uniforms. There is an element of theatre here. Ned burnt the mortgage deeds, vengeance for the wrongs done to his people. Aimed directly at the establishment.
This is the place where Ned
wanted the Jerilderie Letter published.
Noellen Lloyd said she believed the letter was Ned needing to explain
his actions and they were not monsters and that they did not wish to be
seen as such. There was an explanation for what happened and this was
The Jerilderie letter was said to be kept in the police archives for over 50 years. Yet I always believed that the letter had been in private hands and was donated to the State Library only a couple of years ago.
Steve Longford built up a psychological profile of Ned from the Jerilderie letter. (using his pink highlighter) The egocentricity of Ned Kelly is something that is borne out when we see that he firmly honestly believes that if he were to die the police would have nothing to do. It contains a threat to the police or anyone who stands with them. Steve Longford tells us that we are getting some insight into a guy who is becoming irrational. He believes that Ned was heading down the road of what we now call suicide by cop. The police ignored Neds prophecy of violence.
Kelly was preparing his grand finale.
We return to the old fashioned home movies again where this time we are
in Glenrowan playing tourist at all the sites. Narrator: "Many at
Glenrowan saw Ned as their champion. When Ned held up the town here in
1880 most were happy to play hostage."
Narrator: "They were blissfully unaware of what Ned had in mind, we see the armour and hear of the trap where Ned is to lure the police. They gunned down a local man they suspected of being a police informant." It would have helped if the role of Aaron Sherritt was better explained.
They now had the perfect bait. Next step was to derail the train, it would be a massacre. Professor McQuilton & Judith Douthie walk the actual site of the proposed derailment. For the first time we see what the view is like looking from the bottom of the embankment. We are told the true purpose of the armour, how from the bottom the police who survived would not have been able to hit the legs of gang members in armour. This was for me perhaps the most interesting part of the show. I had heard it said that the armour was designed to operate on horseback, but never this very informative opinion.
Bantick with some more rantings In relation to Glenrowan he repeats some of what we have heard him say before when he compares Ned to a terrorist.
Thomas Curnow as Judith Douthie says, takes that one step more than the others and runs down to save the train. A minor point in the re-enactment of Mr. Curnow, he was holding a candle behind the scarf, not a lantern as shown. A candle would have been so much harder to keep lit too. The chance he took in this dash to the rails was so great. He could easily have been shot for this act. Judith Douthie now shows us a section of the actual scarf used by Curnow. It is a rare relic and you can see by the way Judith holds it that she sees it as I do, as a very important part of our history. A tangible part that Judith stroked and held with great emotion. Sections of this scarf were cut up and given away as souvenirs. Everything and anything to do with the siege was or became a collectable, even in those days
We see the train warned by
Curnow stop and horses get off. Hare runs over toward the Inn. The Kelly
gang come out and there is an exchange of gunfire according to Professor
John McQuilton. Professor McQuilton stood in todays Glenrowan as
he described clearly what occurred. Only via illuminations from the shots
can we see what is happening at the Inn.
The Last Stand Judith Douthie tells us that Ned was called on to surrender in the name of the law by the police, apparently Ned said surrender be buggered. Sympathisers congregated at the hill behind the Inn and Ned risked all to slip through the police lines to tell them to go away. It was now his fight. In a final act that would immortalise him in folklore, Ned returned in a single-handed assault on the police to save his mates. Professor McQuilton, Ned taunts the police before Sgt Steele brings him down.
Narrator: "19th Century paparazzis were all over the place ready to propel Ned into the history books. As the hostages ran for their lives the police torched the Inn." In actual fact the hostages were long gone prior to this act, only Martin Cherry (platelayer) a dog, Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly & Steve Hart were still inside. We see the charred corpses of the two dead gang members.
The Armour Narrator: "The armour had become the gangs Achilles heel."
Armourer John Fox (responsible for the creation of armour on the Heath Ledger Kelly film and a recent doco Besieged. He is an expert in weapons and armour) has a stuntman named Clint Dodd try on a suit of replica armour to testify to the difficulty in operating with it on. Clint has trouble even wearing it let alone aiming a weapon. It digs into him and he cannot see anything not directly ahead. Fox tells us Neds armour was 75 lbs which is about 20 lbs short of the true weight. This set also lacked the extra weight of the shoulder caps. After a short walk around Dodd has had enough. Imagine how it was for Ned carrying heavier armour and having bled for many, many hours.
Conclusions These days Ned sympathisers are looking for a higher
meaning, they talk of a revolution. Professor McQuilton talks of
this being the first step in a revolution. The independence of the North
East. However no manifesto has ever been found.
The final word came from Noeleen Lloyd, she explained why she saw Ned as a hero. She believed Neds struggle was not just about his family, it was about everybody.
All in all this was a well put together documentary. Its major downfall was having someone so anti-Ned interviewed that it lost some credibility. There is nothing wrong with showing both sides, so long as neither are so biased that it becomes a Ned Kelly bashing session. I leave the final decision up to you.