Bushranging Gazette #5

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Though there’s not as much news to report this month, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been things happening worth talking about.

This past month saw regular spots for A Guide to Australian Bushranging on Evenings on ABC Radio Hobart and Northern Tasmania where listeners were able to learn about local bushrangers such as Michael Howe, Matthew Brady, Musquito and Martin Cash (among other lesser known figures).

It was also a month of anniversaries, as June sees the anniversary of the hangings of the Clarke brothers and Rocky Whelan, and the Glenrowan siege, all of which received coverage across the many outlets for A Guide to Australian Bushranging.

Negative of famous armour photo goes under the hammer

A glass negative of a photograph taken of Kelly Gang armour in 1880 has been auctioned, with a digital version auctioned as a NFT (non-fungible token). NFTs are a way of owning the original version of a non-physical object, a chance as a digital photograph or video.

In 2021, NFTs have become very profitable as original files for viral videos and memes have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. This is the first time a digital image relating to the Kelly story has been auctioned in such a way.

The 100,000 photographs up for grab are from the Rose Stereograph Company, and featured on a series of extremely popular postcards in the late-colonial and early-Federation era.

The valuable collection of historic images was found in a spare room of a house belonging to descendants of one of the men behind the company, Herbert Cutts.

We understand that for these historically important pieces to rest with one family is to deny others the pleasure of their custodianship.

Stephen and Jeffrey Cutts, via a statement

Find out more:



Michael Howe in Traces

In the new issue of Traces (issue 15) is a feature article about Michael Howe, written by Georgina Stones and featuring illustrations by Aidan Phelan. The article examines some of the long held misconceptions about the bushranger and his gang, as well as the importance of challenging assumptions.

Also featured is an article discussing the Aboriginal bushranger and rebel Musquito who is often credited as stimulating the “black war” of the early colonial era in Van Diemen’s Land.

Holmes’ Legends trilogy cancelled

On the eve of the anniversary of the Eugowra Rocks heist, Australian filmmaker Matthew Holmes announced that he is shelving the other two films in his planned “Legends Trilogy”. The first film, The Legend of Ben Hall, has received a number of international awards and has been seen around the world despite being a low-budget indie film.

Matthew Holmes has pulled the plug on his ambitious bushranger trilogy.

The Legend of Frank Gardiner would have focused on the escort heist and the bushranger’s whirlwind romance with Kitty Brown, while The Legend of John Vane was to tell the story of the only member of the core group of Johnny Gilbert and Ben Hall’s gang to survive long enough to record his memoirs.

“It’s especiallyheart-breaking for me because of the amount of passion that was behind this project. The amount of time poured into the screenplays was immense. The historical research alone and the careful weaving the three films together was a monumental task.” Holmes said.

Holmes has spent half a decade refining the screenplays and attempting to get investors and talent to sign up for these films. In 2020 a major American production company was set to invest, but a chain of events stymied efforts. The development Hell the Legends trilogy has been stuck in is symptomatic of bigger issues in the Australian film industry, which is largely government funded whereas the majority of American films, by contrast, are funded internally by studios. This is not the first time lack of funding for a bushranger film has seen it shelved or released without being properly completed. Films about Captain Moonlite, Jessie Hickman, Sam Poo and Ned Kelly, among others, have all had the plug pulled due to being unable to gather production budgets.

“For the marketplace to even take us seriously, we needed a couple high-profile Australian actors to sign on in the lead roles. We approached many, but getting the script into their hands proved impossible since we weren’t financed yet. Conversely, we couldn’t finance the films until we had secured some high-profile talent; so we were stuck in this endless Catch 22,” said Holmes. “Our trilogy was not about superheroes, vampires, zombies or invading aliens – which are the safe bets that the marketplace wants. Bushranger films are unique, but that’s also makes them riskier. We needed private investors who not only saw the financial potential of the trilogy, but also the cultural significance. But we were always met with closed doors. Making films in Australia is much harder than people realise.”

Holmes is moving onto new film projects, including a modern-day revenge drama The Cost, which is currently filming. Though he isn’t ruling out attempting to make these stories in future, Holmes admits his envisioned trilogy is unlikely. “There was always a time limit on this series. We couldn’t pick it up in twenty years time, not with over a dozen of The Legend of Ben Hall cast that wouldreprise their roles. The best I can hope for now is that someone with a genuine passion for Australian history and the means to finance these next two film approaches us. It’s tragic that these scripts will remain forever unproduced, because these are true stories equal to that of Jesse James, Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp. This was our chance to share some wildly entertaining Australian tales on the world stage and it was almost within our grasp… almost.”

This month’s features on A Guide to Australian Bushranging

* Musquito: an overview — A concise account of the life and career of one of the most infamous Aboriginal bushrangers, who became known as one of the most notorious rebels pushing back against colonisation.

* The Dark Side of the Law —A dip into the grim and grisly side of colonial law enforcement, examining the systematic use of torture and execution to suppress lawlessness by the colonial authorities.


Ned Kelly’s Colt

This Colt revolver is on display in the Benalla Costume and Kelly Museum. It appears to be a modified Colt Walker, a firearm from 1847. The barrel has been shortened, which would also likely account for the missing loading lever. These were infamous for being heavy and unwieldy, and prone to defects and malfunctions, especially with the barrel and loading lever.

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