Bushranging Gazette #21

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Flooding in bushranger country

Heavy rains in October have resulted in floods that continue to affect many communities in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Over the coming weeks the full extent of the damage will become clearer, but there has already been mass loss of livestock and property, damage to homes and roads, as well as damage to the natural environment in the affected regions.

Many of the worst floods are in “bushranger country”, notably around Forbes and surrounds in New South Wales, Deloraine in Tasmania where locals are experiencing the worst floods in living memory, and “Kelly Country” in Victoria, particularly around Seymour. There is no doubt that there will have been damage to places of significance where bushranger history is concerned, and possibly buildings and items of historical significance have been damaged or destroyed.

Even as the flooding was first unfolding, efforts were being made to help these communities get back on their feet. A number of charities have established funds for this purpose. With more flash flooding predicted for New South Wales and northern Victoria, including places like Tumut and Gundagai, there is still much to endure before a clean-up effort can be launched in earnest.

Clarke petition

Braidwood historian Judy Lawson has launched an online petition in a bid to gain support for her push to have the signs related to the Clarke story in the district updated to reflect a more nuanced and historically accurate take on the story.

Lawson argues that the current signs are too unambiguous and portray a skewed version of events that place the Clarkes and their relatives as murderers and thieves, despite many of these charges never having been laid against them in life, nor any conviction secured for many of the ones that were.

In particular, Lawson posits, the claim that Tommy Clarke and his gang ambushed and murdered a party of Special Constables near Jinden should be retracted as there is no clear or definitive evidence to back it up. This is the central conceit of her book The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures, in which she outlines and discusses the evidence that does exist and the alternative explanations for the crime.

The petition is available to access online via this link: https://chng.it/kPGYvNFmJD

Captain Thunderbolt’s Folly

Retired marketing man John Donohoe has written a book about Frederick Wordsworth Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, entitled, Captain Thunderbolt’s Folly – The Day the Gentleman Bushranger Got Himself Killed. The book will cover the events that led to the death of Frederick Ward, and Donohoe indicates he will cover ground rarely trodden.

Much like my book about Ben Hall, I have got a barrow to push. I have certain chapters where I deal with controversies that haven’t been dealt with before.

John Donohoe [Source]

The book will attempt to explain how Thunderbolt, a renowned horseman, could have ended his career and his life in a horseback chase.

Donohoe is no stranger to the subject of bushrangers, having published the books Ben Hall’s Treasure: The Search for Bushranger Loot in 2014, and Ben Hall’s Last Days: The End of the Road for Australia’s Greatest Bushranger in 2016. After a career in marketing for chemical industries, Donohoe kindled a passion for Australian history that led to authoring books on the subject.

Captain Thunderbolt’s Folly is slated for a November 2022 release.

[Read more here]

Glenrowan developments

Work on the Glenrowan viewing tower continues, with the multi-million dollar project beginning to take shape. Despite protests from Joanne Griffiths, a descendant of Ned Kelly’s younger sister Grace, that the tower was violating the heritage precinct, the project has continued unabated.

The steel skeleton of the tower was prefabricated and lifted over the base with a crane. [Source]

The tower will overlook the site of the Glenrowan siege, where police fought the Kelly Gang in 1880, enabling visitors to get a more detailed understanding of how the siege unfolded and where key landmarks fit into the current landscape.

Additionally, plans to build a new bridge over the train line at Glenrowan are set to continue despite locals furious at the potential impact to local businesses and the damage it will cause to the siege site. Based on the current previsualisations on display at the temporary ARTC office in Glenrowan, the new bridge will be built next to the existing bridge, which will be demolished, and will extend from the rear of the Kellyland Glenrowan animated theatre and museum to approximately halfway alongside the site of the Glenrowan Inn. This will result in dramatic changes to road access and requires alterations to the Woolshed Road. Work on the bridge has not yet begun.

[Read more here]

Jacqui Stockdale Exhibition

Benalla-raised artist Jacqui Stockdale has launched a new exhibition at the Benalla art gallery that she has called The Outlaws’ Inn, which features her heavily stylised multimedia artwork inspired by the Kelly family.

[Via Jacqui Stockdale Artnews on Facebook]

Having launched on 28 October, on 5 November 2022 the exhibition will be complemented with a performance including “a cast of teenage hooligans […] signing in Auslan” and a dance-off, Stockdale’s newest exhibition, a sequel to ger 2020 take on the Kellys, The Long Shot, is intended as something of a parody of the animated theatre in Glenrowan.

The Outlaws’ Inn will be in the Simpson Gallery at Benalla Art Gallery until 29 January 2023.

[Read more here.]

New Books

Hanging Ned Kelly by Michael Adams: When it came time to hang Ned Kelly, the job fell to crap-carrier-turned-quack-doctor-turned-drunken-chicken-thief Elijah Upjohn. Such is life indeed. Hanging Ned Kelly looks at the life and times, crimes and demise of Australia’s most famous antihero from a new perspective: that of the ‘rogue and vagabond’ who finally put the noose around his neck. Elijah Upjohn was the latest in a long line of flogging hangmen allowed to run amok because they’d do the dirty work that let officials keep their hands clean. Despite being duly appointed ‘finishers of the law’, Upjohn and his fellow boozing bunglers were so hated they were hunted by angry mobs. As one writer asked: ‘Who shall hang the hangman?’ In Hanging Ned Kelly, Elijah Upjohn’s tale becomes the rusty scalpel that slices open the underbelly of colonial Victoria. Written by Michael Adams, creator of the acclaimed podcast Forgotten Australia, this is an odyssey into an infernal underworld seething with serial killers, clueless cops, larrikin vigilantes, renegade reporters, racist settlers, furious fallen women and cunning waxworks showmen. Looming over them all: the depraved hangmen paid to execute convicted men and women – some of them innocent or unfairly condemned – in Melbourne before it was marvellous.

Justice in Kelly Country by Lachlan Strachan: Part way through the Jerilderie Letter, Ned Kelly accused Senior Constable Anthony Strahan of threatening him: ‘he would not ask me to stand he would shoot me first like a dog’. Those few fateful words have echoed through Australian history as the cause of much bloodshed and violence. They marked Anthony forever and ushered in a national myth: the legend of the Kelly Gang. Two days after Anthony allegedly made this threat, Ned and his gang shot dead several police in an act of brutality that became known as the Stringybark Creek killings. Ned’s reason for opening fire? He said he had mistaken one cop for Strahan. Lachlan Strahan, Anthony’s great-great-grandson, grew up with the familiar story of Ned Kelly, the egalitarian rebel, and his ancestor as the villainous cop who had threatened him. Yet as he began to probe into Anthony’s life, he discovered that the truth — and the Kelly legend it has given rise to — was more complex than he believed. Anthony Strahan was a boy from County Kildare who joined the Victoria Police and embodied the thin blue line of law and order in the bush for nearly thirty-five years. He was also possessed of a fiery temper and a desire for justice, and was a major player in the hunt for Ned Kelly, though never recognised for it. Did he utter those incendiary words about Ned? Whose version of history do we believe? This is a tale about law enforcement — about justice and retribution, character and morality. It is also about making a life against the odds in a wild frontier society, race relations, intergenerational shame and anger. Readers will learn more about the Kelly Gang, the Wooragee Outrage, Saucy Jack, a game called Swindle, the Pender Affair and many other criminals, some petty and some villainous. They will strap in for a damn good ride.

Too Young to Hold a Gun by Peter Spencer: Too Young to Hold a Gun is a true story written in the form of a historical novel. It tells the tale of a long-time resident of Howell, William Monckton and his mentor Frederick Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt.
[It relates] the story of William Monckton through his eyes and from his perspective, taking into consideration his age at the time, and the era in which he lived.
This fictionalised account reveals firsthand the hardships of life on the run and the challenges of returning to community life after serving time as a convicted felon. It is really two stories running alongside each other, as he often reminisces about the time he was Thunderbolt’s Apprentice. It has often been said that truth is stranger than fiction.

William Westwood: In His Own Words edited by Aidan Phelan: William Westwood was only sixteen when he was transported from Essex as a convict for stealing a coat. After landing in New South Wales and being assigned to a cruel master who would have him flogged at any opportunity, he decided that he would reclaim his freedom by any means necessary. Years later, as an inmate on Norfolk Island, a place known as the Isle of Despair, William Westwood immortalised his life in written word, and it is reproduced here in full, along with transcriptions of his letters. Contemporary news reports and a collection of images help to fill the gaps and more fully immerse the reader in the world of the notorious “Jackey Jackey”.

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