Monday, 01 March 2021
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Bushranging Gazette. Here you will get a roundup of the month’s news, covering new discoveries, exhibitions, media releases and any other pertinent materials related to the topic of Australian bushranging.
Last month there was a brief hiccup when Facebook shut down the page for A Guide to Australian Bushranging as part of its protest against proposed legislation from the Australian government. This gazette is a direct response to having that outlet impacted on by external forces, restricting the reach of A Guide to Australian Bushranging and the spread of relevant information.
New Kate Kelly biography
Australian artist Rebecca Wilson has just released a new book about Kate Kelly, sister to Ned and Dan. This is the first proper, stand-alone book about the glamorous younger sister to the outlaws and her tragic life that isn’t simply a work of fiction. Wilson has an intimate connection with the story of Kate, and the associated folklore, having created various artworks on the theme over the years, with the book being something of a culmination of her investment in the figure of Kate Kelly.
The book has been getting much publicity and is featured in the Bathurst Writers Festival as the Great Festival Read, with the author slated to make an appearance there on a panel. A review of the book will be forthcoming later in 2021.
Ned Kelly Vault collection officially dismantled
The Ned Kelly Vault museum in Beechworth closed its doors permanently and unceremoniously in 2020. Having been closed during the Victorian coronavirus lockdowns, many were eagerly anticipating returning to visit the one-of-a-kind collection once they got their liberty. Alas, mere days before the lockdown was finally lifted, allowing travellers to venture into the state’s northeast, the sudden, shock announcement that the museum would not be reopening its doors hit social media.
Since then the items have been gradually returned to their respective owners, with the Burke Museum reclaiming their pieces and the rest going back to private collections. There have been some developments in regards to a new purpose-built space possibly being incorporated into the Glenrowan AR/VR tower project, but it remains to be seen what will come of this. On 22 February, Matt Shore posted on the Vault’s Facebook page showing a quote from the late Kelly biographer Ian Jones, accompanying an update on the collection. Two days later he shared a news piece from the Wangaratta Chronicle on the Vault’s Facebook page regarding the developments (pictured below).
Whatever future the Vault has is unclear, but what is evident is that whatever incarnation the Vault takes on in future will be very welcome from the Kelly community who have seen a dramatic reduction in attractions in the region that they can visit to connect with the Kelly story.
Benalla Costume and Kelly Museum renovations
This month the Benalla Costume and Kelly Museum will be undergoing renovations. This will see the popular institution briefly closed, but upon reopening there will be new improvements to the familiar surroundings, including a new-look Kelly exhibition.
The museum has a small but significant collection of Kellyana, the pièce de résistance being the green silk sash Ned Kelly wore under his armour at Glenrowan in 1880. The museum also has a replica of Joe Byrne’s armour cast from molds made of the actual pieces, a bridle said to have been worn by Ned Kelly’s horse at Glenrowan, and the doors from the Benalla lockup upon which Joe Byrne’s body was photographed.
Joe Byrne author launches new Michael Howe project
Long-time readers of A Guide to Australian Bushranging will be familiar with the work of Georgina Rose Stones. For those who are not, Stones is the author of An Outlaw’s Journal and its Facebook adjunct Joseph Byrne: The Untold History, which aim to set the record straight on Ned Kelly’s wingman. In the time that Stones has been publishing her work on the life of Joe Byrne she has uncovered many things that had been overlooked or ignored by previous historians and made a name for herself through her creative pieces that breathe life into the historical figures she writes about.
Now Stones is endeavouring on a new project alongside her work on Joe Byrne called Michael Howe: Governor of the Woods. The website and its relevant social media are an outlet for her to share the results of her research into the much vilified Tasmanian outlaw. In only a brief span of time she has already uncovered facts from primary sources that completely shatter the long-accepted understanding of Howe’s life and personality.
Georgina Stones will be contributing an article on the topic later this month. If you would like to support her work, please visit the links below and follow her.
Men-at-Arms: Australian Bushrangers 1788–1880
Written by Ian Knight, illustrated by Mark Stacey, published by Osprey Press.
It is always great to see new books coming out that can act as an introduction to bushrangers for younger and mature readers alike. Australian Bushrangers 1788–1880 does exactly that.
The text is punchy and easy to read, covering quite a lot of subjects but focused mainly on costumes and armoury. If you are expecting a deep dive into your favourite bushranger you will be disappointed, but this book never pretends to be anything of the sort. Instead, this provides a very good overview of bushranging history, including the social contexts, as well as military and police history. The very brief descriptions of the careers of various bushrangers helps to introduce readers to some of the more colourful characters of the past.
Where this text really excels is in how it focuses quite heavily on the armed forces that opposed the bushrangers, which is quite unusual for books on the subject. This will give readers an even better understanding of how law enforcement in Australia evolved in response to the bushranging menace.
Of course, the thing that many readers will gravitate towards is the section in the middle of the book with the full colour illustrations depicting bushrangers and law enforcement. These beautiful paintings are vivid and breathe life into these historical figures in a way that the archival images fall short in achieving.
In the interests of full disclosure, A Guide to Australian Bushranging was one of the sources utilised by the author, Ian Knight, while researching the material for the book. The article “Mode de Bandit” in particular provided much of the reference for the paintings of the bushrangers. It was a great privilege, and humbling, to have Ian, a writer and military historian of considerable experience, reach out while putting this book together. One could hardly be happier with the final result, which is highly recommended reading for long-time enthusiasts as much as newcomers.
This month’s articles on A Guide to Australian Bushranging
My Story: Julia Dąbrowska on Jack Donahoe
My Story: Georgina Stones on Michael Howe