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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 News & Views Page

Dave's commentary on The Ned Kelly Documentary'Outlawed'
Produced by Filmmaker Mark Lewis

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).
On the opposing camp we heard from a serving member of today’s police force Mick Kennedy (descendent of Sgt Kennedy killed at Stringybark Creek) who was understandably anti-Kelly. In the opposing camp we also had Christopher Bantick. He is a freelance journalist who has a degree in Arts majoring in History and Education. He has taught in Britain up to Oxbridge level. He has also written several uninformed anti-Ned articles for the Sun Herald here in Melbourne. He added nothing new to the story.
We also heard from two other men, firstly a man who is probably ‘the’ most qualified Kelly historian Professor John McQuilton & criminal profiler Steve Longford who has worked on such cases as the Bali bombing, the Peter Falconio abduction and the Herron/Panadol extortion cases. He was trained by criminal profiler Detective CI Bronwyn Killmier, the only criminal profiler in Australia at that time. We also heard from Ann Galbally, author of a book on Judge Barry and Paul Haldane Retired Supt of the Victorian Police, Police Historian and author.

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 Ned’s 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 it’s not right then we can fight for it”.
Narrator: "The British rulers were also here in Australia as they had been in Ireland. Ned Kelly was of Irish stock, but his was the anger of a first generation Australian. When Ned’s Dad died in 1866 his mother secured land in Greta."
“Ellen Kelly was my Great Grandmother, so Ned was my fathers uncle” said David Griffiths. We watched David speak with a view of the bone dry Kelly country behind him. The land of Ned’s day was also hot and dry, he explained how tough life was for the Kelly family and how poor the land was here compared to land in England. This area had low rainfall and almost no topsoil.

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."
Ned Kelly fought back via his gang, ‘the Greta mob’, who wore the chin strap under the nose, as Prof McQuilton put it “it must have been very uncomfortable”. Noleen Lloyd said she saw the Kelly boys as ‘naughty’ who liked racing their horses around and stealing something ‘just because you can’, showing this is what you can do.
Narrator: "The gang came up with a quick fix idea to get money." They would according to Professor McQuilton do some ‘wholesale & retail horse dealing’. Something had to be done and it was.

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.
The man the squatters turned to was Chief Commissioner Standish. Captain Standish was a ‘dandy’ who arrived in Australia under a false name, (to escape gambling debts). Known as a procurer of women at the club for his mates, we watch as Mr. Standish and other gentlemen of the club are frolicking with scantily dressed women.
McQuilton, “the police plan is to move the Kellys out of the area”. (police harassment). Along comes Constable Fitzpatrick whom Professor McQuilton describes a very untrustworthy officer.

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 Ned’s 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.

The Jerilderie 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."
Steve Longford, the profiler looks over the letter using a gigantic magnifying glass and a fluoro highlighter. He believes that the letter contains a secret. Ned rants over and over against Fitzpatrick. Could it reveal a different version of events? That he was in fact there. Longford believes that there was a relationship between the two and that that relationship has been betrayed. Longford goes on to say that he believes that Ned and Fitzpatrick were in business together and that had gone bad. It may be that Fitzpatrick did frame Ned to cover up a deal.

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.

Stringybark 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 Ned’s years of work at the saw mill.
Professor McQuilton tells us that Stringybark Creek is the real ‘toughie’ of the Kelly story, the one that makes or breaks us when it comes to people’s attitudes toward Ned Kelly. Three Men are murdered.
Paul Haldine, tells us he believes that the Kelly gang had no reason to stay and could have ridden away. He said that it would have been the easiest thing to ride away. But they didn’t.

(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 don’t 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 ‘Australia’s first crime scene photos’. Note however that the photo shown of Kennedy’s 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 McIntyre’s 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 didn’t 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 Sgt’s 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.
Kennedy says that to steal from someone killed in cold blood is just lousy. Whilst I feel very much for the families of all the slain officers I do not believe that the theft of a watch proves this murder to be cold blooded murder. There are a lot of unexplained facts about this event, it was not as simple as the men sneaking up and killing police. They could have done this much easier, without asking them to stand, earlier on.

Outlaws 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.
Noeleen Lloyd explained how tensions between the police and families in the district were still evident today, mind you she gets on ok with the local constabulary. Noeleen said that they were on opposite sides of the fence. Though they were trying to build some bridges.
The result of locking up sympathisers was that Ned was handed a support base which enabled him to stay on the run.

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 it.
On the other hand Bantick said he could not believe the Jerilderie letter and that it was “the moan of an adolescent who had never grown up”.A man who was irritated by people asking him to do things he didn’t like. He described it finally as long discursive utter tripe.

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 Ned’s prophecy of violence.

Kelly was preparing his grand finale.

Glenrowan 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."
Judith Douthie Judith explained how David Mortimer played the concertina and called the sets for the dancing at the Inn. Some she explained were sympathisers and none really feared Ned. At this stage we see the dancing in full swing. The sympathisers are easily recognizable with the chin strap under the nose. Would they have displayed such loyalty openly if they were amongst the people to assist the gang by keeping an eye on others? I was not there so I am not sure, it just looked odd.

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 today’s Glenrowan as he described clearly what occurred. Only via illuminations from the shots can we see what is happening at the Inn.
Narrator: "Five innocent hostages get caught in the crossfire and four will die. Joe Byrne had just raised a glass to drink when he is shot and killed."

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 gang’s 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 Ned’s 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.

Documentary's 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.
"Disaffected colonists 34,000 of them petitioned for his reprieve. They needed a figurehead, it made no difference, for on November 11 1880 he was executed. He last words were said to be “Such is life’.
Only a few generations later he is well established as our national treasure, but when it comes to this ‘hero’, is there an uncomfortable truth we are unable to face?"
Bantick explains that under any criteria Ned is not a hero. He is a cop killer, he is a horse stealer, he is a terrorist and someone prepared to take prisoners and kill 30 plus police and civilians.

I think that Ned can be seen as committing an heroic act in returning to save his mates when he knew he had no hope at all. To call him a simple cop killer is far too simplistic and shows little understanding of what occurred at Stringybark Creek. Of course he was a horse thief, one of the best there was. The police also had amongst their ranks some fine horse thieves. To call him a terrorist is also off the beam somewhat and this is Bantick’s pet subject in comparing Ned to the Bali bombers and others (he did not use that analogy this time around however). The derailment of the train (at least the plan of it) was something all of us have had to ask questions about. Some called it war, others murder. I cannot agree that it was acceptable under any circumstances, but I was not there so I am not qualified to make further comment.

The final word came from Noeleen Lloyd, she explained why she saw Ned as a hero. She believed Ned’s 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.

Dave White

Production Details:
Narrated by Jack Thompson. Produced and directed by Mark Lewis. Produced by Windfall Films (A British film maker created in 1988 by 3 ex BBC Producers) and Look Television for The Australian Broadcasting Corporation in association with Channel 4 and National Geographic Channels International. 1 x 55 minutes.

 

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