Saturday, 20 January 2018

The George King Mystery

This is the man identified by his descendants 
as Ellen Kellys second husband George King.
This is part of the prison record 
of a NSW Horse Stealer named George King.
Is it the same man as in the top picture?
George King the NSW Horse stealer

George King was Ellen Kelly’s second husband. They were married on February 19th, 1874, in Benalla. Its commonly said that he came from California, was a horse thief and that he deserted Ellen Kelly in about 1877 after fathering three of her children. But when you drill deeper into the detail about who exactly George King was, where he came from and where he ended up, his marriage to Ellen Kelly is about the only thing we know for sure about him.

In 2002 a photo said to be of George King was listed for auction by Christies in Melbourne. The Catalogue reported that Ian Jones had proposed that it might be George King in 1995, and “After comparison with several portraits of Kings children, family members accepted the identification” Given the absolute certainty with which Ian Jones wrongly declared a different photo from that same catalogue to be Ned Kelly, and the recent brouhaha over the ID of the Kelly Vaults latest addition, a photo also said to be of Ned Kelly, one has to treat these photo identifications with some caution. But lets say it really is George King. What else do we know?

In the Jerilderie letter Ned Kelly described George King as a ‘horse stealer’, and indeed there was a horse thief of that name. He served time at Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney for horse stealing and according to his prison record was a native of NSW born in 1847. He was released on January 3rd, 1874. The prison record also includes a very clear portrait of the man, and according to many, the resemblances between these two photos are so striking they’re convinced it’s the same person. It may well be. I’ve copied the prison record and the photos for you to compare and make your own assessment.

As is usual in the Kelly story, there are problems with accepting that these two people are one and the same person, that Ellen Kelly married the NSW horse stealer. The first one is minor – but it means that George, aged 25, travelled to the isolation of rural Victoria, met and married 41 year old Ellen Kelly in a mere six weeks after his release in the bustling city of Sydney. Whirlwind romance, for sure, and not impossible but does it really hang together? Maybe.

The second more challenging problem for Kelly supporters is that it means the child said to be the first of the three of Ellen’s listed as George King’s could not have been – Ellen King was born on November 3rd 1873. The entire pregnancy began and ended while George was in Darlinghurst Gaol.

Given Ellen Kelly’s history of a pre-marital first pregnancy and of an affair with Bill Frost, an affair with another person, unknown, is not entirely out of the question.

So, the choice is to either accept that Mrs Kelly had an affair with some unknown person and the NSW horse stealer accepted the child as his, or else reject the horse stealer as the George King that Ellen Kelly married.

If someone was interested, this dilemma could most likely be resolved by DNA comparisons between descendants of Ellen King, such as Leigh Olver, and any descendants of the other two children Ellen Kelly had with George King. It would soon become apparent if they all had genetic material in common that wasn’t from Ellen Kelly. If they did, that would rule out the horse stealer.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Fact Checking the Kelly Story


On the Facebook pages where the Kelly story is currently being promoted and discussed, people who post in support of Ned Kelly as an Australian icon and a hero almost always betray their ignorance of the detail of the story by including in their comments statements which are factually wrong. I am not talking about opinions that differ from mine, or claims as facts things that cant be proven either way, but statements that are simply, unarguably false.

One of the most frequently repeated such errors is the one Ellen Kelly herself is reported to have made when Constable Fitzpatrick came to arrest her son Dan. She is reported to have said that because Fitzpatrick didn’t have the Arrest Warrant with him, he had no right to arrest Dan and Dan was under no obligation to go with him. As a result of this false belief of hers she attacked Fitzpatrick with a shovel, a melee ensued during which Fitzpatrick was shot, and, as we know the Outbreak was born.  

There seems to be a belief that a policeman has to show the actual warrant to the person before being able to arrest him, but this is simply NOT true. It wasn’t true in 1878 and its not true now - its never been true, and even a moments reflection would reveal why it couldn’t possibly be true. It would mean, for example that if a policeman saw someone committing a crime he would be unable to do anything until a Warrant was created. It would mean that if he saw a known criminal on the loose and didn’t have the correct piece of paper in his pocket, the criminal couldn’t be apprehended. It would mean there could be no such thing as a ‘citizens arrest’. It would mean that Police would have to carry about with them the warrants relating to all known local suspects, in case they ran into any of them on his rounds. It would substantially inhibit the ability of Police to maintain Law and order.

I learned something the other day that might explain why this false belief is so common. It relates to a different kind of Warrant, a warrant that the Police do indeed have to show before they can act : it’s a Search Warrant, and is quite different from an Arrest Warrant. To legally invade your home to conduct a SEARCH, Police either have to have your permission, or else apply for and be given permission by an independent authority to do so. There are some particular situations where even that warrant is not needed, such as if they wish to arrest someone they believe to be hiding inside, or if they think evidence may be destroyed if they delay entry, but in general, if the Police come to your house with a SEARCH warrant they have to show it to you. If they can’t show it to you, and prove they have permission to search your house, then you have a right to refuse them entry.

But if there is a warrant for ARREST, they have a right to enter a home to make that arrest and are under no obligation to display the actual document. It can be shown to the suspect back at the station.

So why do so many Kelly sympathisers believe this falsehood? Simply put, it’s from ignorance of what the Law really is, in relation to warrants and arrest. It also happens because when such erroneous claims are made on FB pages and elsewhere, nobody in the Kelly world bothers to supply the correcting facts.

But it also arises from ordinary people who mostly don’t have a few shelves of books on Kelly history, accepting the word of people who promote themselves as authorities on the subject in the press and in print, and who should know better. Jack Peterson is the most recent example – this  sloppy poorly informed author repeats this simple falsehood both in his dreadful book and on his FB page.


Anyone repeating this nonsense about Fitzpatrick needing to have a warrant with him should be corrected. I don’t expect Jack Peterson or many Kelly sympathisers to ever change their views about Ned Kelly and the Police but at least they could stop spreading falsehoods about what happened. When they continue to repeat disproven claims about Ned Kelly they demonstrate their commitment is not to historical truth and reality, but to a fable that disguises a liar, thief, hostage taker and police killer.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Dee Looks Back at 2017

The Kelly myths continue to shrink into the distant past.

In no particular order, here are what I think were the main events in the Kelly Calendar for 2017, a year which was a universally rotten one for Kelly sympathisers, as the Kelly lies and legends were rolled back relentlessly, and the only comeback by its hard-core supporters was  abuse and vilification and a retreat to the comfort of the tired worn out old myths.

1. The History Channels series Lawless : the real bushrangers”.
I think the episode about Ned Kelly was the biggest Kelly event this year, in terms of its reach and its impact on public perceptions of Ned Kelly. Thousands upon thousands of Australians saw Ned Kelly demonstrated to be a callous killer, and the documentary rejected his claim to have killed in self-defence. They also demonstrated the way in which Lonigans wounds were created by a single shot using a quartered bullet, validating the explanation I devised a year or more ago.  The Ned Kelly episode of Lawless was a significant blow to the Kelly mythology, which is why Kelly sympathisers rubbished it. Read more HERE.

2. Mrs Kelly by Grantlee Kieza. This was undoubtedly the best Kelly book released this year, and is one of the few really good Kelly books of all time. A very well researched and comprehensive biography which inevitably chronicled the entire Kelly saga, and exposed Ned Kelly as a dangerous criminal. Another blow to Kelly sympathisers who took a while to realise what Kieza had rather cunningly done to their hero. Read more HERE.

3. The Legend of Ned Kelly Movie Kickstarter Campaign. This was an ambitious attempt by Australian award-winning movie maker Matthew Holmes to raise funds for a movie that he claimed would tell the Kelly story "based solely on the facts and the evidence we have on hand, not based on a novel or an opinion”. Given that one of the scriptwriters was going to be an extremist Kelly fanatic, and that Holmes blocked me from commenting or challenging him and the scriptwriters on their Facebook page, it was very clear this movie at the very least would have been some form of apology for Ned Kelly and most likely a dishonest retelling of the myths. The Kickstarter campaign was a spectacular flop, and demonstrated how sick and tired people in Australia are of hearing about Ned Kelly. Only a tiny minority regard him as a worthy hero and only 400 Australians were prepared to offer financial support for Holmes movie. Another blow to Kelly mythology. Read more HERE. 

4. The Updated CSI Report. This Report was first released 5 years ago and presented arguments for a particular place at Stringybark Creek being the site of the Police camp and the murders of Lonigan and Scanlon. It was unconvincing. The update included dishonest claims about Heritage Victoria taking an interest in their site, and an argument based on a  bullet found there some years ago by a man whose later admissions  have so undermined his credibility that inclusion of his evidence in the Updated CSI Report makes it even less credible. The Update also includes an explanation of Lonigans injuries using the insights I developed on the Blog a  long time before they did, and which accurately implies Ned Kelly’s version of events was a lie, a useful observation but of no relevance to their faulty arguments about the site of the Police camp. Read more HERE.

5. Dr Stuart Dawsons Historical Commentary on the demise of George Metcalf. This was the third of Dawsons forensic examinations of particular incidents in the Kelly story. This time he debunked the sympathisers false claim that it was the police who injured Metcalf at Glenrowan. The actual historical documentation shows it was Ned Kelly who caused the injury to Metcalfs eye, an injury which it is thought eventually resulted in Metcalfs untimely death a few months after the siege at Glenrowan. Another Kelly myth debunked! Dawson also made available for free download an online transcription of The Kelly Gang or the Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges, 1879, by G.Wilson Hall. Read more HERE, and HERE.

6. Ned Kelly : Iron Outlaw by Brad Webb. Written by the Iron Outlaw Webpage creator, this attractive looking little paperback was a massively cynical retelling of the entire tired old Kelly mythology. It contains nothing that will be new to anyone familiar with Kelly mythology but will deceive people who aren’t, because the book claims to have been written by a historian, which Mr Webb is not. The history it contains is fake. Read more HERE.

7. Upgrades to Stringybark Creek. For several months DELWP have been engaged in a process aimed at upgrading the tourist experience at Stringybark Creek. Its good news that they want to increase recognition of the sacrifices made by police at the site and take the focus away from the Kelly Gang. Its also good news they have at last recognised that Ian Jones advice has led them and the public astray for several years, and so they will discontinue misidentifying a place on the eastern side of the Creek as being where the Police camp was. However its not such good news that for reasons they refuse to explain, they’ve decided not to make  an attempt to find the police campsite on the eastern side. This process is still ongoing, and many of us have made submissions to Heritage Vicoria in the hope they will be persuaded to agree that identifying the actual site should be a priority, as it’s the main thing people drive  way out there to see. Read more HERE.

8. The Ned Kelly Center. This concept that went nowhere about a decade ago has been revived by Joanne Griffiths who runs a FB page with the same title. Her Fundraiser was a disaster nobody is interested in it so she has asked the Wangaratta Council to give her a few million dollars to get it off the ground. Its not going to happen. If anyone wants to gauge how much public interest there is in her project they only need to check out her FB page its as dead as a dodo. Read more HERE.

9.The other Ned Kelly related Facebook Pages. The pro-kelly places kicked me out over a year ago and I predicted they would decline into irrelevancy, and that’s what’s happened. All they do is re-post items of news and the pages from other Kelly places. Certainly none of them have any detailed discussions about anything, and nobody challenges police hate posts or plainly false Kelly beliefs. On the Unmasking page there are only three people who ever post comments, about 80% of them are childish personal attacks on me, and they never discuss the book the FB page is supposed to be debunking. Their most recent post is a link to an article that 30 or more people liked yet not one of them made a comment about the  litany of inaccurate and plainly wrong statements about the saga made in the article (such as that the Jerilderie Letter was published in 1879, and that Ned Kelly  wounded numerous officers before he was captured at Glenrowan )  There are two FB pages dedicated to Bushranging in general, the one curated by Aidan Phelan links to an interesting Blog Page but almost nobody comments on his articles. The only  Facebook place where anything interesting ever happens is on my Ned Kelly: The True Story Facebook site (TTS). As a case in point, on all those other pages there have been no new comments for several days. On TTS my comment on Sunday morning had reached 435 people by evening! Read more HERE.

10. An Introduction to Ned Kelly : A Pictorial History of an Australian Outlaw. This overpriced 2017 publication consists of about 100 colour photos of various landmarks in Kelly  country accompanied by  an entirely unoriginal text which supports all the usual Kelly myths. I suppose bad photos might be better than none in the eyes of some readers, but I remain convinced better photos of all the named places can be found for nothing on Google Images. Read more HERE.

11. 50th Anniversary of the landmark Kelly Symposium at Wangaratta. I wrote a series of reviews of the presentations made at that Easter 1967 Symposium which did indeed herald a kind of resurrection of Kelly mythology, reaching its peak  in the 80s. We have now entered the new age where mythology is in decline and being replaced by Kelly historical truth-telling, but its fascinating to look back to see where it all began, and how hopeful the Kelly future seemed to be back then. Read the first of six posts HERE.

12. Death of the Legend Blog. We had our third birthday this year and  continued to be the only place on the Internet where interesting ideas and thoughts about the Kelly legends are debated and discussed in detail. In addition to all the topics mentioned above, there were also discussions about such things as the reliability of the Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia, the identity of the greatest of all the Kelly Myths, the life of Sir Redmond Barry, a review of the terrific movie The Legend of Ben Hall, and what should new owners of the siege site at Glenrowan do with it. We also asked when exactly did Ned Kelly stand up for his family, or do something truly heroic, and exposed him time and again as a notorious liar.  As usual there was plenty about the Fitzpatrick Incident.

13. No Ned Kelly Weekend for the second year in a row. Its finished.