Updated June, 2006
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10/06/06 Development 'totally destroys historical integrity'
Glenrowan, the site of Ned Kelly's famous stand, is getting a makeover. But a prominent Kelly historian has criticised the work. Martin Flanagan reports.
A COUNCIL development of the siege site at Glenrowan is destroying the area's historical aura, a prominent historian has warned.
Ian Jones, the author of the highly regarded biography Ned Kelly: A Short Life, noticed the character of the development being undertaken by the Rural City of Wangaratta when he returned from Ireland a fortnight ago.
"It totally destroys the historical integrity of the place," he said. Mr Jones, 74, believes any development of the site should take it back, as near as possible, to how it was when the Kelly gang took more than 60 hostages there in June 1880.
To this end, Mr Jones worked as a heritage consultant for the council in 2002, helping it come up with a plan for the area. He claimed the plan's aim was, specifically, "the re-establishment of the siege area".
In 1880, the siege site was basically the area between the front of the Glenrowan Hotel, where the Kelly gang waited with its hostages, and the railway station where the troopers disembarked.
Mr Jones, whose authority on the Kelly legend comes from his command of its detail, said the area was then known as "the railway reserve". It had large ditches in which the troopers took cover.
As part of the development now under way, what remained of the ditches has gone.
Mr Jones was particularly aggrieved that the creek beside which Kelly was finally captured had been rerouted and a small stone bridge built over it. Elsewhere, paths have built and there appears to be the beginning of a car park.
These are not the first changes to the area. In the 1960s, an overpass was built at the western end of what Mr Jones calls "the battlefield", to take road traffic over the railway line. What was lost then, Mr Jones said, was the site where Inspector Francis Hare was standing when Kelly took aim in the moonlight, fired and smashed the policeman's hand in the phase of the siege known as "the first volley".
In this exchange, Kelly was wounded twice, one bullet shattering his left arm, another passing through his right foot.
Mr Jones said there was another change to Glenrowan's historical character in the 1960s when McDonnell's Hotel was knocked down to make way for a motel, which was eventually built elsewhere.
McDonnell's Hotel was where the Kelly gang's supporters waited. Had the train derailment the gang attempted gone to plan, it was, Mr Jones believes, meant to trigger a general uprising aimed at created a republic in north-eastern Victoria.
More recently in Glenrowan, a local improvements committee has added a rockery to the siege site and tall stumps with faces painted on them depicting characters from the drama. Mr Jones said the committee was "well-intentioned but misguided".
A rose garden edged with a stone wall has also been added to the railway platform.
"Over the years, the historical integrity of the whole area has been compromised," Mr Jones said. "Now it's been totally destroyed."
He likens what is happening at Glenrowan to "bulldozing Anzac Cove and erecting a few fake trenches that are safe to walk through".
Rural City of Wangaratta economic manager Graham Nickless said he had the utmost respect for Mr Jones and his "intimate understanding" of the Kelly story.
"But we do have slightly different views about the master plan and what is achievable at the site," he said.
He said the Glenrowan master plan called for the siege site to be protected — "which means it doesn't become a KFC or Big Mac site"— and made the focus of the town. The overpass and other changes since 1880 meant Mr Jones' idea of returning the area to its original state was not achievable.
"This is a work in progress," Mr Nickless said. "If people want to make a judgement, let them wait six months until it's finished."
The council says the project, which will include building an interpretation centre, has been approved by Heritage Victoria. But, in a statement on May 25, Heritage Victoria said only that a permit had been issued for the "Glenrowan revitalisation project", the work involved archaeological supervision, and that its staff had visited the site.
Mr Jones said he first saw the siege site from the window of a passing train as a 10-year-old in the 1940s.
"The amazing thing about Glenrowan from then up until now was that you could still get the feeling of the place," he said. "Elements of the siege were still intact. That's gone now."
Source: The Age newspaper by Martin Flannagan
18/10/05 'Myth clouds truth of Stringybark Creek survivor'
Howard Humffray was delighted when his mother told him he had "a similar nature" to her father — the lone survivor of the Stringybark Creek police killings in which three colleagues were shot dead by the Kelly gang.
"My mother thought the sun shone from her father," Mr Humffray, 80, says of Constable Thomas McIntyre, who gave crucial evidence at Ned Kelly's trial 125 years ago this month. "Her mother died early and he brought up his family."
McIntyre died a few years before the birth of Humffray, now a retired mechanical engineer. But his mother, Florence, would regale him with stories about McIntyre, and the family prizes a little-known manuscript containing the policeman's reminiscences, now held at the Police Museum in Flinders Street. Mr Humffray is heir to two iconic Australian stories. His paternal great-grandfather was John Basson Humffray, who presented the Eureka diggers' charter to Governor Hotham in 1854 and became Victoria's first minister for mines. He believes his maternal grandfather's reputation suffered as a result of attempts to make a folk hero of Ned Kelly. "(My mother) regarded him as a criminal and I do too," he says of the bushranger, who was tried on October 28, 1880, and hanged on November 11 for shooting Constable Thomas Lonigan.
He says McIntyre has been maligned in the media and historic accounts by those seeking to lionise Kelly. "It ruined his life, the Stringybark Creek episode, according to my mother," Mr Humffray says.
Thomas Newman McIntyre, born in northern Ireland in 1846, was unmarried
when he rode north from Mansfield in a police party that unwittingly set
up camp on October 25, 1878, close to the Kellys' hiding place. Sergeant
Michael Kennedy and Constable Michael Scanlon left to patrol the area
the next morning.
Mr Humffray says many thought McIntyre "should have stayed there and been shot with the others" — but had he not escaped, "I wouldn't be talking to you now".
Source: The Age newspaper By Larry Schwartz
16/09/05 'Kelly's 'girl' back with the gang where it all began'
Aficionados have pored over every last detail of Ned Kelly's life, but some aspects remain a mystery. One puzzle is "Betty" — the name the legendary bushranger gave his favourite rifle.
Kelly biographer Ian Jones was first alerted to the existence of the .577 calibre Snider-Enfield rifle by Thomas Lloyd, the son of the bushranger's cousin "and virtually the fifth member of the Kelly gang". But he was not able to explain the name. "The only hint I've got is that Davy Crockett had a Kentucky long rifle, I think he called Betsy," Jones says. "And I just wondered if this wasn't some little echo of something Ned remembered from George King, his American stepfather."
Leigh Olver, a descendant of the bushranger, will be the special guest today when Kelly enthusiasts dressed as troopers march with Betty into the Robert O'Hara Burke Memorial Museum at Beechworth, north-eastern Victoria. The occasion is the launch of an exhibition marking the 125th year since Kelly appeared at a hearing in the town's courthouse before he was sent to stand trial for murder in Melbourne.
The rifle, on loan from a private collector, was stolen by Kelly from
Henry Dudley — "a splendidly John Bullish Englishman",
Jones has written — one of a party of men who had been hunting kangaroos
in the Strathbogie Ranges.
Kelly later carved the letter 'K' into the rifle. Jones says Betty, valued several years ago at $150,000, was among the weapons the gang gave supporters before the Glenrowan siege. When first presented with the rifle, Jones, who later learnt that a woman who had inherited it had sold it to a dealer, thought it was too modern to be "Betty" until a firearms expert confirmed it was an 1870s hunting weapon.
Betty will be on display at the museum until March. A spokeswoman for the Indigo Shire Council said it was the "probably the big ticket item" among memorabilia that includes Kelly's death mask, a replica of the Glenrowan armour and photographs of his mother, Ellen.
Source: The Age newspaper By Larry Schwartz
1/08/05 'Kelly expert anti 'poisonous' book'
Roused from sleep at Beechworth jail on a wintry midnight in 1880, Ned Kelly told a solicitor representing him at a murder hearing due to begin hours later that, regardless of the outcome, all he wanted was a full and fair trial so the public could see that he had acted under strong provocation and was "not the monster I have been made out".The remark anticipated the continuing divide between those who regard him as an iconic Australian larrikin and those who damn him as a murdering villain.
The Ned Kelly wars are set to break out again in Beechworth this weekend: an expert on the convicted killer is preparing to publicly condemn a new book he claims is "marked by persistent vilification of Ned Kelly — unbalanced to the point of psychosis …"
Ian Jones, author of the best-selling mid-1990s book, Ned Kelly A Short Life, said he believed it was all the more important to talk at this weekend's 125th anniversary of the hearing in which Kelly was committed for trial, "because a recent book has come up with the most outrageous rubbish about that hearing in the court here".
"It is poisonously inaccurate," Jones said of Ned Kelly's Last Days: Setting the Record Straight On the Death of an Outlaw, "… and if that is setting the record straight, I am the Ayatollah Khomeini …"
The debate could add drama to events including a re-enactment of the "trial" and launch of a DVD narrated by Jones, who will also speak at the unveiling of a plaque at the site of Ned Kelly's famous 1874 fight with Isaiah "Wild" Wright after both had emerged from jail for charges related to the theft of a horse.
Co-author of the new book, Jennifer Castles, said she would keep a low profile at the event but would welcome dialogue with Jones at some stage. "Ian has done an incredible body of work," she said. "He lives and breathes the Ned story … But there is a sense that he is the last word on the Kelly story. Ian seems to have developed this, dare I say, siege mentality." She said he seemed to think that "(his) facts are the facts and no one can come up with anything else because they are absolutely wrong".
Castles worked on the project for seven years with her father, Alex Castles, a legal historian and emeritus professor of law at the University of Adelaide, and completed it after his death in December 2003. She said it had been endorsed by both former prime minister Gough Whitlam and High Court Justice Michael Kirby.
Jones, who moved to Beechworth from Melbourne just over a year ago, said he had found 42 errors in the new book that were "the tip of the iceberg". These included, he said, descriptions of a witness account of the shooting of Constable Thomas Lonigan at Stringybark Creek for which Kelly was hanged.
He said errors in "the bizarre version" of the account by Constable Thomas McIntyre, survivor of a police party at Stringybark Creek, typified "the amalgam of factual error, wildly implausible theorising and distortion of fact that characterises much of the book. Which is a pity because there is also some good, well-informed work in it."
Jones said Alex Castles had been a "man of the law and men of the law usually pursue one side of the case". "Now he is going 100 per cent from the (prosecution's point of view) and is ignoring any evidence that doesn't square with the image he formed of Ned," he said.
Castles said her father had not practised law. He had co-authored eight books on Australian law and history and would have been "the first to welcome having his work questioned and would willingly stand corrected, as long as the sources and nature of the evidence was sound".
"My father did not have a 'psychotic hatred' of Ned Kelly," she said. "Alex's only interest was in getting to the truth. After seven years of working with Alex on this project, I can testify to the fact that he was neither 'pro' nor 'anti-Ned', much as I tried to get a commitment from him. He wanted to get past the myths and the hype, to return to the original sources and those events and characters that have been largely ignored by the popular histories, and let the evidence speak for itself.
"What my father did hate was when people used Ned to push their own agendas, making him out to be something he was not, refusing to accept that Ned was flesh and blood with good qualities and failings like any man. This, he felt, was one of the greatest injustices of all."
The Beechworth Ned Kelly Weekend runs from Friday to Sunday. Bookings on (03) 5728 8066.
Source: The Age newspaper By Larry Schwartz