Ned Kelly
Updated November 25, 2002

Ned Kelly

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Book News (For review summary click here)

Ned Kelly Cinder'BURNT TO A CINDER, WAS I?' The escape and life of outlaw Dan Kelly, member of the notorious Ned Kelly Gang.
by Vince Allen and Carolyn Allen

Fiction
(September 2002 release)

Review

"He made no move to reach for his gun. I warned him first, then I took aim an' then I shot the man clean through the heart. He slumped to the ground, and Ned an' me, well we turned round as calm as anything an' we walked back up the street an' came home. I'd avenged my sister's wrong."

The forward of this book claims the contents tell the "truth" about Dan Kelly's supposed escape from the siege of Glenrowan. It also claims the author Vince Allen to be the only person alive who "had Dan's confidence…and record his side…" of the story.
The author claims that his account of this tale is based on the story as it was related to him by none other than Dan Kelly himself and that it was recorded as it was told. He adds that some characters and conversations have been fictionalized, something necessary in order aid the narrative. Unfortunately he neglects in his notes to tell us which characters, and where, he has done this.
Mindful of the effect of disclosing that the presumed dead Dan Kelly did not actually die will have on Australian history however - he tells us that has not materially altered the details. From this are we to presume Mr Allen expects his account to be accepted and taken seriously enough to change the history books? Unfortunately he provides the reader with no proof whatsoever, contradicts much recorded and oral history, and his sources are unable to be consulted for verification, as they are all dead. It has been claimed by the author that descendants of Kate Kelly (name unknown) knew 'Dan' was alive. A claim that has been strongly refuted by Ellen Hollow (Kate's great grand daughter).

On with the tale… Chapter One begins at Glenrowan and describes a previously unheard of escape from the siege. It offers an explanation that Dan pushed his way out a back wall of the burning inn, just after all the police had conveniently moved around the front of the burning building. No mention at this stage is made of Steve Hart. The two charred remains we have to date believed to be that of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were, we are told, actually of unknown identity - vagrants perhaps. Dan noticed them on the way out. Father Gibney apparently lied under oath at the 1881 Royal Commission to protect Dan who he had seen alive in the burning inn. There is also a baby burning to death in the inn as Dan escapes - a baby that (historically speaking) was never reported dead or missing. Badly burned 'Dan' escapes the fire and police, and crawls to some bushes, where he lies hidden near death for 4 days, until discovered by a German by the name of August Schultz. Immediately Dan divulges his identity.

At the end of this chapter a note declares the author has not attempted to
"reconcile" this account of the siege of Glenrowan with "what has hitherto been recorded".
This implies that he expects the reader to not mind the vast contradictions
of his account with all other widely recorded 'official' and oral history
and without having made a convincing case based on even circumstantial evidence.

Schultz then takes 'Dan' to an unnamed Irish family who nurse him back to health, wherein he falls in love with their daughter, Mary. While recovering he is visited by George King (who apparently hadn't disappeared years earlier as we had all supposed) and Kate Kelly. 'Dan' (alias Jim Clyde) then heads north and joins a gang of horse thieves, to whom he (again) instantly reveals his identity.
As one reads on, it becomes apparent that 'Dan' is rather blasé about revealing his true identity. Despite his being wanted for murder and on the run from the law for the past two years, trusting only those he knew and after his fellow gang members were killed or captured due to betrayal. This appears to be highly improbably behavior for a young man who both recorded and oral history indicate was actually cautious by nature. (e.g. It was Dan who advised Ned to handcuff McIntyre at Stringy Bark Creek, and advised him not to trust Curnow at Glenrowan.) The casual Dan in this book seems to have undergone an unexplained fundamental change to his character.

Dan's father Red Kelly, we find out, was commonly referred to
as "Old Ned" (despite his name actually being John), and his mother's name
was not Ellen as we suppose - it was Kate! Confusing?
Indeed!
But Mr Allen explains it for us - Dan, it seems, "insisted" that his mother's name
was Kate, because Ellen Quinn was not his 'real' mother.
Incidentally Red Kelly was probably not his real father,
(which is why DNA tests are conveniently unlikely to match with Kelly/Quinn DNA).

After Mary joins Dan in Alice Springs, the story meanders slowly around northern Australia and through various adventures. Floods, heroic rescues, lost cattle, tin fossicking and murder. Everything is included - even a letter from Mary containing graphic details of a friend's childbirth. All this while Dan periodically tells us the 'real' story of the Kelly gang - a story that unfortunately does not match, and even outright contradicts, historical evidence. (But history has got it wrong ostensibly - as it is claimed that both the newspapers and police lied to the public.) From Dan's own lips we have the 'true' Fitzpatrick incident explained to us. It seems it was actually Dan, not Ned, who shot Constable Fitzpatrick! Allegedly Fitzpatrick had tried to rape Kate after she broke up with him, and so Ned and Dan rode out to find him. Dan openly shot him in a Benalla street - no wait, it gets better - he shot him dead! Yep - through the heart! So, who was the Fitzpatrick who continued to serve in, and was later dismissed from, the Victoria police force? Who was the man who gave testimony at Ellen (Kelly) King's trial and who lived a long life and is now buried at Box Hill cemetery? It was none other than an imposter! An unknown man whom the police substituted for Fitzpatrick and who lived his whole life as such. (The Fitzpatrick mystery now explained.)

"The gang had ridden straight into the police in broad daylight. It wasn't an ambush like they told in the court..." quote page 135

Dan tells the story that it was because the police so often victimized the Kellys that Ned had long planned an organised rebellion. In fact he apparently commissioned a "mate" of his, by the name of Jack Quin, to make armour for them long before Glenrowan - in fact it was even before Dan shot Fitzpatrick.
He tells how at Stringy Bark Creek the gang did not ambush the police party but rode brazenly into the police camp in broad daylight. Ned allegedly informed Kennedy that he was wearing armour and thus there was no point in a gun fight as it would be unfair. Regrettably Kennedy started shooting anyway and so Ned had to shoot him in response. McIntyre escaped, and Dan shot the remaining two policemen in a gun battle - men by the names of Cullen and Cunningham. (We are not sure what happened to Longian and Scanlon.)
At Glenrowan Dan was drunk and passed out throughout the entire siege. Interestingly he never wore the armour (this is what saved him apparently). Thus it appears that all those hostages who claimed Dan was present and sober, and had offered them a chance to escape the inn during the siege - were not being entirely truthful.

But wait, there's more! Apparently there is a chance that Ned escaped also, but this is just speculation, as we are told that Dan would never have divulged this information to anyone in case Ned was discovered. Unfortunately Mr Allen does not know if Steve escaped.
It seems there is a good chance that the man from Ipswitch (James Ryan) who claimed to be Dan Kelly, and the Dan Kelly in Mr Allen's account, are one in the same. Mr Allen does not explain however, how Ryan could live quietly farming many years in Ipswitch at the same time he traveled northern Australia as a drover.

Regrettably at Bailup we are unable to swallow this book even as light entertainment. This account is no doubt going to distress a number of people, not because it reveals some great long held secret "truth" - but rather the contrary. Living descendants particularly are by now quite sick and tired of people coming forth claiming that Dan and Steve escaped Glenrowan - without providing one skerrick of evidence to support their claims. There are many other historical inaccuracies through out the book than mentioned above - too many to list in fact. This book is registered as fiction, but is presented, to all intents and purposes, as a true historical account. Fiction however it most definitely is. Reading it one was hard pressed to find any accurate historical facts and the efforts made to justify the contradictions is baffling. Reading it one can only assume the author believes the tale he tells. However given the profound lack of evidence and the outright factual contradictions of the story, one must conclude that sadly Mr Allen has been duped, and by someone with only bare knowledge of the true Kelly story.

We do agree with Mr Allen's suggestion that the man in his book claiming to be Dan Kelly was quite possibly born when he stated, i.e. on the 3rd of December 1854, (notably the same time that Ellen Kelly was pregnant with Ned). We do also agree that this 'Dan' was not the son of John and Ellen Kelly (nee Quinn). However that is all in the book we can agree with him about. It is quite clear that the man in Mr Allen's book is not THE Dan Kelly, brother to Ned, and member of the Kelly gang.
For if this man (alias Jim Clyde/Davis/Tom Dunn/James Ryan) who claimed to be Dan Kelly was actually genuine, and the stories he told as presented in this book were remotely accurate, then who is the Dan Kelly born to Ellen and John Kelly in Beveridge on the 1st May 1861 and Christened on the 28th August that year? Who is the Dan Kelly charged in 1871 for illegally using a horse - aged 10 years? Or the person charged and acquitted of stealing a saddle in 1876, and in 1877 sentenced to 3 months gaol for willful damage at a Winton store? Who was he, and why was he not mentioned in the book?

The only recommendation I'm prepared to make in relation to this novel is that if you do purchase it - remember it is FICTION and please read it with a very sceptical eye in regard to historical accuracy.

For Byran Clark's (independent) perspective on another aspect of the highly questionable historical credibility of this tale - click here

Note: For more information on the various stories about the alleged survival of Dan Kelly, and related comments from Ellen Hollow (Kate Kelly's great grand daughter) - click HERE

Review first published 13th September 2002

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