Bushranging Gazette #2

Thursday, 01 April 2021

Welcome to the second issue of the Bushranging Gazette. There are plenty of interesting topics of conversation to delve into this month including Captain Moonlite’s inclusion in a LGBTQI+ event in Ballarat and the controversy over the new Kate Kelly book.

As today is April Fool’s Day, one of these articles is a fake – can you spot which one it is?

Kate Kelly Controversy

Early in March, with the release and publicity tour for Rebecca Wilson’s book Kate Kelly, came a spot of controversy due to claims published in the book.

Wilson has included in her text an unsubstantiated rumour that Ellen Kelly’s youngest daughter, Alice King, was in fact the illegitimate child of Kate Kelly and Constable Fitzpatrick, with Ellen acting as a wet nurse for her grandchild. This, naturally, raised eyebrows among those who are enthusiasts of the story and descendants.

The keen amateur historians were quick to lay out exactly why the rumour was nothing but a lie. Further, Ellen Hollow, a direct descendant of Kate, made clear her distaste for the blatant disregard for accuracy in a message to Brad Webb’s ironoutlaw website. She stated in part:

Look at the facts. The King children at that time were five, three, and a new born. Not impossible but highly improbable that Ellen Kelly/King became a wet nurse for Alice. Remember Ellen was taken to goal with Alice as she was nursing (breast feeding) the infant. Rebecca said she had done intensive research into Kate’s life, then how could she believe Kate would abandon her child for all the years until her death? That is not justice to Kate’s memory, which Rebecca says she has tried to achieve.

Ellen Hollow – 7 Mar 2021 [via http://www.ironoutlaw.com]

Unfortunately, as in most cases of such reckless reiteration of untruths, the horse has now bolted and many people who have bought the book, read it watched interviews with the author, or attended her class on writing and researching history, have already accepted her account as true and factual.

New Custody Centre Honours Bushranging Victim

On 13 March, Victoria Police unveiled a new custody centre at Glen Waverley Police Station named after Constable Thomas Lonigan, a police officer killed by Ned Kelly over 140 years ago.

In a gesture lauded by the slain trooper’s descendants, the Victoria Police are paying tribute to one of their own who was taken in a violent attack in 1878. This is not the only memorial to Lonigan; the memorial site at Stringybark Creek, where he died, was given an upgrade in 2018 in order to put emphasis on the sacrifice of the police officers, and take attention away from the outlaws. These new holding cells will keep the Lonigan name actively involved in law enforcement well into the future.

Captain Moonlite Rides Again in Ballarat

From 05/03 – 25/03, Child & Family Services Ballarat Inc. held the LGBTIQ+ event Captain Moonlite Rides Again, which featured art exhibitions, and projection installations. While the event could be visited in person, it was also partially delivered online via Facebook and on local broadcaster Channel 31 as a way of maximising participation in a Covid-safe format.

In recent years the suggestion that Andrew George Scott, aka Captain Moonlite, was homosexual has provided a very important cultural touchstone for the Pride movement in Australia. Regardless of whether or not he in fact was gay is by-the-by, the very notion of a gay bushranger offers LGBTIQ+ people a feeling of inclusion in the nation’s history. This highlights the very important role that historical figures play in fostering ideas of identity and unity, even if the ideas may potentially stem from a myth or pure speculation. The Captain Moonlite Rides Again event is not the first time that Scott’s image and alter-ego have been employed in the name of the Pride movement. One recent example is the musical Moonlite by Gabriel Bergmoser that was included in the Midsumma festival in 2018.

For more information on Moonlite’s inclusion in a study into LGBTIQ+ history in Victoria, check out this article written by Gabrielle Hodson.

Long Lost Letter Located in Library

Librarians cleaning out a store room in Eltham have accidentally discovered a letter written by infamous bushranger Robert Burke that had been donated many years ago by an anonymous individual. The letter was in a shoebox along with a collection of antique photographs of various locations in the region. A note pinned to the letter explains that the letter was found in a coat pocket when Burke was captured after shooting Henry Hurst in 1866. The letter had been claimed as a souvenir and handed down through the family of the light-fingered individual.

Sharon Stone, head librarian, claimed that the letter was written by Burke and addressed to his sister.

Burke writes that he is walking to Sydney where he will meet his sister so they can both travel to Queensland and establish a farm. He says he included a photograph of an actor he saw in Melbourne but the photograph seems to have gone missing. It really is an interesting insight into the famous bushranger and what he was doing up this way.

Sharon Stone – 17 Mar 2021 [via Eltham Gazette]

There are plans to display the letter in the library foyer so that locals can come and view this intriguing piece of local history.

Ben Hall Epic Comes to Apple TV

The Legend of Ben Hall is now available to view on Apple TV, in Australia. The 2016 film, which depicts the final months of Hall’s life, has been previously available on YouTube and Ozflix for VOD (Video On Demand) while the television rights were held by Channel Nine.

Nine only aired the film once, but now that it is finally coming to streaming it greatly increases the opportunity for the film to reach new audiences.

Additionally, fans of the film will be interested to check out Rogue Radio’s podcast Folk Lore with Richard Glover, which includes an interview with director Matthew Holmes.

The film is also included in an article on Australian Westerns for True West magazine, which you can read here.

Tales From Rat City: Captain Moonlite, episode 3 – Moonlight at Dawn

After many months of hard work, the team at Tales From Rat City have released the third, and final, installment of their special mini-series on Captain Moonlite. The Tales From Rat City podcast is well-researched and demonstrates a respect for Australia’s history and culture that is often lacking in many such podcasts. The journey to research and capture the dramatic story of Andrew George Scott has clearly been very rewarding for the team and you can tell that by listening to the discussions of the story. The story is brought to life by passages that are dramatised like a radio play, helping to create a great sense of immersion.

If you would like to hear the podcast, you can access the three installments via the below links:

Moonlight in Egerton – Part I

Moonlight In Prison – Part II

Moonlight At Dawn – Part III

‘Bluey’ Shelton

Ian ‘Bluey’ Shelton has passed away after a long illness at the age of 81. Shelton, a former star player for the Essendon Football Club, was a descendant of Richard Shelton, the boy that Ned Kelly famously rescued from drowning in Hughes Creek, Avenel. For this act of bravery, Ned was given his green sash, which he later wore under his armour at Glenrowan.

Read more about the late Mr. Shelton here.

Glenrowan Tourist Tower

After months of whittling down the proposed designs to two, then getting community feedback, a design for the new tower in Glenrowan has been chosen.

The tower, originally planned as a “VR tower”, is intended to enhance the tourist experience in Glenrowan by offering views overlooking the battle site, from which you can use a mixture of media including augmented reality software to recreate the buildings and the battlefield. The project currently has $4 million funding and is hoped to become a major tourist attraction for the area.

Read more here.

The approved tower design

This month’s articles on A Guide to Australian Bushranging

A Guide to Tasmanian Bushranging: An exploration of some of the locations in picturesque Tasmania and their connections to bushranging.

Port Arthur [Photograph by Aidan Phelan]

Fact vs Film – Joe Byrne: An examination of how Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne is portrayed in Ned Kelly (1970), The Last Outlaw (1980), Ned Kelly (2003), and True History of the Kelly Gang (2019).

Did you spot the April Fool’s Day entry in this gazette?

One thought on “Bushranging Gazette #2

  1. I thought the Robert Burke item must be the April Fool item – then asked Google and found he existed. So maybe the letter is the fake?

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