Bushranging Gazette 2022 Special Edition

Saturday, 31 December 2022

A Year in Review

To say 2022 has been a roller-coaster of a year would be understating things. For Australian Bushranging it has been yet another big one with book releases and talking events, as well all the usual stuff that rolls out on this website and social media.

Ah Nam

The first book release of the year from Australian Bushranging was Georgina Stones’ Ah Nam. The book tells the story of Joe Byrne as a teenager, hired to escort a Chinese man back to Sebastopol and the misadventures along the way.

The first part of the book tells the story as a narrative, complete with original illustrations. This is followed by essays and source documents that explain the historical basis of the story. Stones not only uses the story as a vehicle to depict an interesting and important event in the early life of the future outlaw, but also to give a more humanised depiction of the Chinese and the prostitutes of Beechworth, who are frequently overlooked in standard history books.

This is the first Australian Bushranging book to be distributed by IngramSpark, which makes it a lot more cost effective on both ends, and allows readers outside of Australia to have access without the outrageous cost of postage.

Glenrowan: Definitive Edition

The second book release of the year was a new, revised edition of Glenrowan. At almost 600 pages, it has a bit of heft to it. The revised text includes passages omitted from the first edition due to the extra printing cost, as well as new illustrations and supplementary material.

The new cover design replaces the original Matthew Holmes one to draw more of a distinction between the two by focusing on the central figure of the story rather than the more abstract image of the armour.

For those who may have missed the first edition in 2020, Glenrowan tells the story of the final months of the Kelly Gang, centred around their last battle at Glenrowan. It takes historical events and figures and uses the dramatised narrative to fill in the gaps in the historical record in a way that humanises the characters and makes the situations more relatable for readers in the modern day.

Aaron Sherritt: Persona non Grata

This year’s second Australian Bushranging book release was Aaron Sherritt: Persona non Grata, a biography of the man whose death sealed the film of the Kelly Gang. Though not an exhaustive account, it it the first time a book has focused on Sherritt rather than frame him only in relation to Ned Kelly or Joe Byrne.

The book launch for Aaron Sherritt: Persona non Grata was held at the El Dorado Museum, which is right in the heart of the region Sherritt was raised in and lived out his short life. The building itself is the former common school where Aaron and Joe Byrne had stolen a cow that they then slaughtered and butchered. Some of those in attendance were Sherritt descendants, and a presentation was given that looked at how Sherritt had been portrayed over time versus how he actually was according to history.

William Westwood: In His Own Words

The third Australian Bushranging release for the year was a collection of autobiographical writings by bushranger William Westwood. The anthology of memoirs and letters also includes a short biography in the introduction for comparison with the main text, as well as contemporary news articles for context.

There are few extant memoirs by bushrangers, and though Westwood’s have been published elsewhere, this text connects them in a way that allows the reader to get a more full, chronological perspective on the writing. There will be future releases from Australian Bushranging that are similar, but none have been announced as yet.

Bushranging Tales Volume One

The final release from Australian Bushranging in 2022 was Bushranging Tales Volume One.

Written as a fifth anniversary commemoration for A Guide to Australian Bushranging, the book consists of short stories depicting real bushranging events as well as biographies and archival material. Included in the volume are stories about Michael Howe, Matthew Brady, Martin Cash, Daniel Morgan, Johnny Gilbert, Harry Power, Captain Thunderbolt, Captain Moonlite and Ned Kelly.

Top Stories

There has been an awful lot going on in the world of bushrangers and the Bushranging Gazette has kept abreast of it all. Here are five of the biggest stories from 2022.

1. Books Galore!

2022 has seen a huge influx of books about bushranging and Australian history. Here are the most notable releases from 2022 that feature bushrangers:

2. End of an Era at Glenrowan

Chris and Rod Gerrett, who owned and operated Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan for more than thirty-five years have called it a day and handed the reins over to new owners, Doug and Michelle Coad.

The shop, which includes a small museum and replica of the Kelly family’s house at Greta, has been a mainstay of Glenrowan and is located a stone’s throw from the Big Ned statue. Thousands of visitors have enjoyed the attraction, and since taking over Doug and Michelle have revitalised the attraction.

The replica cottage had been engulfed by creeper vines, which Doug Coad says was “six tonnes” worth when they cleared it all off to reveal the struggling building underneath. Since then the work to undo the decades of neglect has been ongoing: repairing the roof, re-papering the interior walls, restoring the clothes on display in the rooms, cleaning up the blacksmith shop where blacksmithing demonstrations are now held, as well as acquiring new display cabinets for the museum and putting some objects on display for the first time since they were added to the museum’s collection three decades earlier.

The exterior of Kate’s Cottage after the removal of the creeper vines and replacement posts for the verandah awning. (Photography by Aidan Phelan)

Currently the outside of the gift shop is undergoing a transformation too, with rendering being applied in preparation for new murals to be painted on in February of 2023. It is fair to say this staple attraction in Kelly Country has had a major glow-up.

First reported in Bushranging Gazette #15

3. Eugowra Rocks 160th anniversary

One of the most significant episodes in bushranging history was Frank Gardiner’s heist on the Orange gold escort at Eugowra Rocks. On 15 June 1862 Gardiner and a gang of bushrangers ambushed the gold escort after blocking the road with bullock drays. In the attack two police officers were shot and injured, but the troopers and the coach driver managed to escape alive.

It was estimated that the gang got away with around £4000 in gold and cash from the escort, making it one of the biggest gold heists in Australia’s history.

First reported in Bushranging Gazette #16

4. Flooding in Bushranger Country

Natural disasters continued to devastate bushranger country in 2022, however this time instead of fire it was floods. Flash flooding wreaked havoc in parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania leaving many people displaced, livestock and crops destroyed and many other knock-on effects that will be felt well into 2023 and beyond.

Flooding in Forbes, New South Wales.

As of December 2022, the estimated damage costs are in the billions, with the disasters not only interrupting transportation of goods but dramatically impacting the supply of meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables and grain.

First reported in Bushranging Gazette #21

5. Exhibitions and More

2022 saw a number of exhibitions and special events on around the country themed around bushrangers.

From February to June Heide MOMA hosted a special exhibition of Sidney Nolan’s artwork, including many of his Ned Kelly paintings.

In March a short season of Matthew Ryan’s play Kelly was performed at La Mama Theatre.

In May Narryna in Battery Point hosted a talk about the bushranger letter in their collection.

In July, Rebecca Wilson exhibited her Kelly paintings at the Parkes library.

In Jerilderie a new exhibition titled Doing the Bolt was opened, depicting the lives of bushrangers, convicts, and rebels, housed in the old printery building.

At the National Art School, formerly Darlinghurst Gaol, an exhibition titled Captivate opened in September and included paintings by Frank Pearson, formerly the bushranger known as Captain Starlight.

Historian and author Jane Smith with one of Captain Starlight’s painting at Captivate.

In October the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery opened the exhibition Jingo was Born in the Slum featuring photography by Matthew Thorne from the making of True History of the Kelly Gang, as well as some of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings.

Later in October Jacqui Stockdale launched an exhibition of her work inspired by the animated theatre at Glenrowan, titled The Outlaws’ Inn.

Finally, December saw the launch of the Crime Time TV exhibition at Geelong Gaol, which includes memorabilia from film and television about crime, including some about bushrangers.

In Memoriam

Alan Crichton: In July the Kelly world bid farewell to Alan Crichton, a prominent and outspoken member of the community and author. Crichton had been a frequent contributor to the Ironoutlaw website, writing for a series called Keep Ya Powder Dry. Crichton, a noted poet, published a book of verse about the Kelly Gang titled Bound for Judgement, as well as presenting at several events including the Greta Heritage Weekend. He also penned a novel set in Kelly Country entitled Far Beyond the Falls that entwines aspects of the Kelly story into its narrative.

Jack Charles: Veteran actor and Aboriginal activist Jack Charles passed away on 13 September following a stroke. Uncle Jack was a Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man who was part of the stolen generations, co-founded Australia’s first Aboriginal-led theatre group in Melbourne in 1971, and overcame periods of homelessness and drug addiction to become one of the most valued and respected elders. Uncle Jack will be familiar to fans of bushranger stories on screen, having portrayed Billy Dargin in the 1970s Ben Hall television series, appeared as Harry Edwards in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and latterly cameoing in True History of the Kelly Gang as a waiter. He leaves behind a proud legacy on stage and screen as well as his important role in the indigenous community as an Elder and activist.

Tommy Dysart: Scottish-Australian actor Tommy Dysart may remembered from brief appearances in Ben Hall and The Last Outlaw or as the mysterious wizard in the Glenrowan animated theatre. Dysart had a long and varied career in film and television, but was most beloved for his appearances in advertisements for the Yellow Pages phone directory and Don Smallgoods.

Australian Bushranging on Social Media


One of the most popular posts on the A Guide to Australian Bushranging Facebook page this year was this post from 21 January:

Few sidearms are as common in the armoury of the bushrangers as the pepperbox revolver, so named because of its resemblance to a pepper grinder. From the 1840s through to the 1870s this weapon was a standard piece of the kit of bush bandits. In later years, as Colt revolvers became more commonplace in Australia, the humble pepperbox took a backseat to the pocket Colt and the Colt Navy.


Other popular posts included this photo of the new replica suit of Ned Kelly armour at Kate’s Cottage, and a repost of the link to the article The Gilbert-Hall Gang: An Overview. The metadata indicates that the most popular content on the page was images related to either Ben Hall or Ned Kelly. As seems to be the trend over the past couple of years, posts with links to the articles on the website had far less reach and therefore far less interaction. Facebook’s tendency to throttle any posts that take users away from the app or site continues to stifle many content creators and pages that rely on Facebook in some capacity as a platform to promote their website, YouTube channel or business.


On Instagram the five most popular posts in 2022 were:

The Grave of Joe Byrne (04/11/22)

The grave of Joe Byrne, bushranger, in Benalla.

Byrne is the only member of the Kelly Gang buried in Benalla, and the only one with a marked burial place. Ned, Dan and Steve are all buried in the comparatively out-of-the-way Greta Cemetery in unmarked graves, which has resulted in many Nedheads bypassing Greta and flocking to Joe’s grave to use as their altar to the outlaws.

Over the years Joe’s grave has been regularly decorated with flowers (real and fake), and littered with objects ranging from cans of alcohol to Australian flags, belt buckles and even a ceramic frog sculpture and a miniature bust of Byrne. Many of these items have vanished either by decomposition, theft or being thrown out as garbage. [04/11/22]

An empty block of land (04/11/22)

An empty block of land is all that remains of what was once the site of the Kelly selection. It was here on 15 April 1878 that Constable Fitzpatrick attempted to arrest Dan Kelly on suspicion of horse theft, which resulted in the “Kelly Outbreak”.

There are no longer landmarks here, the chimneys that had indicated where one of the old buildings stood crumbled away some years ago and there are no signs or other markers to signify its significance. The site has unfortunately been subject to trespassing over the years, resulting in more than a few easily avoidable conflicts.

This photograph was taken from the road, away from the block itself. There is no need to climb over any fences or otherwise make a nuisance as there is nothing to look for, and the only way an item can be taken from the site is outright theft, so if you decide to go looking please do so respectfully and at a distance. This is a private property and the relevant laws apply. [04/11/22]

Ned Kelly Waxwork (12/11/22)

Back in 2011 I travelled to Sydney on a brief holiday (I was much slimmer then!) I made sure we visited Madame Tussaud’s as I’ve always had a fascination for waxworks. Naturally, I had to get a photo with Ned Kelly.

Now, as likenesses go it’s not terrible. He is a bit taller than the real Ned (who was 5’10” tall, which is as tall as me) and his features were a bit more defined, but this is a pretty decent Ned. The Old Melbourne Gaol had a Ned waxwork dummy in the early 2000s with a head that was taken from a mold of the death mask, making it far more accurate in appearance, and it stood much closer to Ned’s actual height. I’m told it was taken down because visitors complained that having a hanging scene recreated on the gallows was offensive.

I hope one day we can get a whole wax museum full of bushrangers, frontier lawmen and the sympathisers. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? [12/11/22]

The Ned Kelly Death Mask (04/02/22)

The Ned Kelly death mask on display in the Burke Museum, Beechworth. [04/02/22]

Russell Crowe as Harry Power (05/12/22)

Russell Crowe as Harry Power in True History of the Kelly Gang.

Though Power was portrayed as being ready and willing to use lethal force in the course of his robberies in the film, the real Power tried to avoid violence. Power never killed any of his victims, nor did he have a reputation for firing at people. Though he was belligerent and coarse, he seemed to understand the value of human life far better than some of his contemporaries. [05/12/22]

Again, Ned Kelly related content seems to be the winner on Instagram, accounting for the entire top five and eight of the top ten posts of the year.


There was far less content on the A Guide to Australian Bushranging YouTube channel this year owing to time constraints, however a guided tour through Glenrowan did make it. Going forward, there will be more video content, though nothing specific has been planned yet for 2023.

Victorian Bushrangers at Old Geelong Gaol

On 7 August, A Guide to Australian Bushranging‘s Aidan Phelan gave a presentation at the Old Geelong Gaol about Victorian bushrangers. The talk ranged from an introduction to bushrangers to the lives and careers of several notable Victorian outlaws.

Among the stories told during the presentation were those of Bradley and O’Connor, Captain Melville, Harry Power and Thomas Menard. Menard has a special connection to the gaol as he was hanged there for murder and was buried in the grounds.

The event was well received and the venue proved to be suitably atmospheric, with replicas of the death masks of Thomas Menard, Ned Kelly and Captain Moonlite adding to the effect.

Features on A Guide to Australian Bushranging in 2022

There were scores of items published on A Guide to Australian Bushranging in 2022, but you may have missed some of the key feature articles from this year. Here is a list of the features that rolled out over the course of the year, with links so that you can catch up on any you missed.

Forgotten Bushrangers: The Leabrook Bushrangers — An examination of an obscure murder cold case attributed to a band of unidentified South Australian bushrangers.

A Bushranger’s Autobiography — The memoirs of bushranger William Westwood, written during his imprisonment on Norfolk Island, published in four parts.

The Parkes Letter — A look at a letter supposedly written by Ned Kelly to the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes.

Describing the Hall Gang — A look at whether contemporary descriptions of Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert and John Dunn match the popular image of them.

Forgotten Bushrangers: Thomas Menard — A short biography of the American-born Victorian bushranger known as “Yankee Tom” who would finish his life on the gallows of Geelong Gaol.

Thomas Jeffries: An Overview — A short biography of Tasmanian bushranger Thomas Jeffries, infamous for his acts of infanticide and cannibalism.

Bushranging and our Police System — A twelve part series of articles published anonymously by a New South Wales trooper, in which he reflects on the police force and his role in the pursuit of the Clarkes and Connells around the Braidwood district. First published in 1867, many names were censored to avoid causing legal issues and potential reprisals.

And with that we conclude 2022. As can be seen it has been a big year, but 2023 looks to be every bit as big. So from A Guide to Australian Bushranging to you have a happy and safe new year, and we look forward to seeing you again.

Bushranging Gazette #22

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Boundary Crossers by Meg Foster

Dr. Meg Foster’s book on bushrangers, first mentioned in Bushranging Gazette #4, has finally hit the presses from NewSouth Publishing and features many figures often overlooked. Among these is “Black Douglas”, an African American bushranger, who up until now had rarely been examined by authors and historians.

Foster’s focus was on uncovering the stories of Australian bushrangers who were not the typical white men that are associated with the label, with Jimmy Governor, Sam Poo and Mary Ann Bugg all featuring in the book.

These bushrangers’ remarkable lives have been forgotten, obscured, misrepresented or erased from the national story for over a century, and this is no accident. All is not as it appears. There is far more to these bushrangers, and their histories, than immediately meets the eye.

Official blurb [Source]

Boundary Crossers is available now from most reputable book sellers.

Read more: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/970592

Listen to Dr. Foster discussing the book on ABC Radio: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/the-forgotten-bushrangers/101588574

More Severe Floods in Bushranging Country

Deadly flooding in New South Wales continued to affect rural communities in November, with the Central West being slammed by unprecedented inundation.

Forbes and Condobolin suffered their worst flooding on record around 16 November, with the Lachlan River coming close to reaching a height of 8m. Improvised sandbags were hurriedly laid, a 3km stretch of bags in Condobolin being nicknamed “The Great Wall of Condo”, but in some areas it was not enough to hold back the waters.

Eugowra was also left devastated by floods with houses washed away. At least one woman was killed, with others reported missing and many having to be evacuated Orange. Water rescue teams from Singapore were brought in to help with the rescue operation around the Murrumbidgee, which continued to suffer from the flow on effects of torrential rain.

Read more: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7984972/wiped-out-heart-breaking-pictures-capture-complete-flood-devastation/

Drag’d Out

Beechworth’s inaugral 2022 drag festival, Drag’d Out, took place in late November. The occasion saw a number of performances and events play out over three days, and rainbows decorating the streets of the town. The festival was a great success, and has been slated to return in 2023.

A small number of vocal Ned Kelly enthusiasts expressed their dislike of the festival on social media, with one Facebook page accusing the organisers of exchanging the long-defunct Ned Kelly Weekend in favour of what they considered “the government’s indoctrination of school children”. In particular, much consternation was caused by the use of the likeness of the bushranger’s helmet on pride-themed clothing that was sold for the event. One design featured a figure in a rainbow coloured ball gown wearing a Kelly helmet, and brandishing a pair of stiletto shoes across their chest in the same fashion as many illustrations depict Ned Kelly holding pistols, with “I ❤ Beechworth” in the background. It eventuated that it was a storm in a teacup, however, with the vast majority embracing the festival as a welcome draw card to the region referred to affectionately as Kelly Country.

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-11-22/dragd-out-drag-festival-beechworth-inaugural-success/101676204

Janet McCalman snags Premier’s History Award

In early November it was reported that Janet McCalman had received the 2022 Premier’s History Award for her book Vandiemonians.

The book follows the lives of some of the Tasmanian convicts who crossed over to the Australian mainland to start new lives in Victoria. Among the many figures featured are people such as the bushranger Captain Melville.

The judges reportedly stated of the book:

“Telling poignant and personal stories with wit and irony, Vandemonians is more than a collective biography. Faced with the difficulty of tracing, through scant records, the lives of hundreds of individuals transported to Van Diemen’s Land, McCalman turned to prosopography, a research strategy focussing on the common characteristics of the group of people as a means of explicating the relationships and activities in the subjects’ lives. The book is also a fine product of the time and effort volunteered by an indefatigable group of family historians who compiled the dataset drawn on by the talented author. This year’s Victorian Premier’s History Award winner shows how the research and the writing of history, and not just its reading in armchairs and libraries, can be a collective enterprise.”

Via PROV on Facebook [Source]

Learn more about this book here: https://www.mup.com.au/books/vandemonians-paperback-softback

Crime Time TV at Geelong Gaol

Launching on 3 December 2022, Geelong Gaol’s new temporary exhibition Crime Time TV offers a look at the history of crime in Australian film and television. Featuring a myriad of memorabilia and artefacts related to this prominent section of our cinema history, the exhibition naturally features many bushranger films and TV shows in the mix.

Book tickets here

Steve Hart: The Last Kelly Standing

A new novel based on the life of Steve Hart had raised eyebrows. The novel, Steve Hart: The Last Kelly Standing, written by Peter Long and published by Hawkeye Books, tells a fictionalised account of Hart’s life before, during and after the Kelly Outbreak, pushing the debunked, yet persistent, narrative that he survived Glenrowan.

The author (far left) and company during the book launch of Steve Hart: The Last Kelly Standing [Source]

Naturally, this alternative history angle was hotly debated online, with Hart descendant Noeleen Lloyd sharing some choice words on a post about the book on Facebook.

The ongoing fallacy that Steve Hart and Dan Kelly escaped continues to distress living Hart and Kelly family and relatives to this day.

My Great grandmother, Rachael Hart was ten when her brother, Steve, died at Glenrowan.

She died in 1958, and there are many of her grandchildren alive today. Including my father, his siblings and cousins.

Whether this piece is intended to be ‘historical fiction’ or not, it is distasteful and disrespectful.

Noeleen Lloyd, via Facebook

Hawkeye Books, who have previously published a different alternative history novel about the Kelly Gang, Nicole Kelly’s Lament, describes the book as “a literary masterpiece” that will have readers on the edge of their seat.

Lloyd’s comment led the publisher to offer to connect the author to the descendant for a conversation about the book.

Tall tales about Dan Kelly and Steve Hart surviving the siege of Glenrowan have circulated since the 1890s, many peddled by swaggies who identified themselves as one of the other of the two. Most accounts suggest the pair hid in a cellar and survived the blaze, emerging one the police had left. Archaeological digs of the site of the inn showed no traces of a cellar. Though the stories have been frequently debunked, some still choose to believe them.

End of year round-up

Stay tuned for a New Year’s Eve Special Edition of the Bushranging Gazette that will recap the year’s top stories and articles.

We will look at some of the books that hit shelves this year, events and exhibitions, as well as revisiting some of this year’s top features on A Guide to Australian Bushranging and taking a look at what’s on the horizon.

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”.

Bushranging Gazette #20

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Thunderbolts Festival 2022

This year’s Uralla Thunderbolts Festival is scheduled to go ahead on 29 October. Despite the festival intended to commemorate the town’s most popular local bushranging legend, the advertising is more focused on Marvel superheroes and Disney princesses.

The 23rd such festival since its inception, which has seen thousands of visitors attend each year, this year’s event will include markets, Fleet Warbirds street parade that features superheroes and princesses, a rock climbing wall, a hula hoop competition, dual giant slide, live entertainment by Chilli Jam, a jumping castle, and little ones merry-go-round. The event is being held in conjunction with Oxley Riders Bail Up Poker Run and will be held at Alma Park.

New novel tells the story of Thunderbolt and Monckton

Peter Spencer, the great-grandson of Captain Thunderbolt’s boy sidekick William Monckton, has just released a new novel that dramatises his forebear’s life as a boy bushranger.

Thunderbolt and Monckton as depicted in the cover art for Too Young to Hold a Gun [Source]

Spencer, who was a plumber by trade but is now retired, has spent the better part of four decades researching bushrangers, with a particular emphasis on the Thunderbolt story and Monckton’s role in it. Too Young to Hold a Gun is his first novel and attempts to portray a more tangible, relatable version of history than a dry history book. It is also edited by Jane Smith, known for own work on bushrangers, including Thunderbolt, who also assisted with the research and fact checking.

This is my debut novel based on William Monckton, my great-grandfather. It is a fictionalised account told from William’s perspective. It reveals, firsthand, the hardships of a life on the run and the challenges of returning to community life after serving time as a convicted felon.

Of course, I do not know what the characters of this book said, nor whether my account of their emotions is accurate. However, after conducting my research and following contact with the wider family of William Monckton, this is my best reckoning. It is also a tribute to the man who learned a hard lesson and spent the rest of his life as an exemplary member of society.

Peter Spencer [Source]

Copies of the book are available directly from the author. For more information go to https://pjspencer.com/ or email tooyoungtoholdagun@gmail.com

Doing the Bolt

Doing the Bolt is an exhibition of convicts and bushrangers. There is an extensive collection of exact replicas and originals including: 30 story boards and banners detailing the life of bushrangers and convicts, pistols and guns flag flown at Eureka Rebellion, cat ‘o nine tails and whipping post, shackles and locks, and much more.

The exhibition is housed adjacent to the Library in the Old Printery building, the historic printing office of the Jerilderie and Urana Gazette run by Mr Samuel Gill. On Monday, 10 February 1879, Ned Kelly tried to find Mr Gill in order to have his manifesto, “The Jerilderie Letter” printed. The restoration of this building was completed in 2012.

Vale Jack Charles

Veteran actor and Aboriginal activist Jack Charles passed away on 13 September following a stroke. Uncle Jack was a Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man who was part of the stolen generations, co-founded Australia’s first Aboriginal-led theatre group in Melbourne in 1971, and overcame periods of homelessness and drug addiction to become one of the most valued and respected elders.

Uncle Jack will be familiar to fans of bushranger stories on screen, having portrayed Billy Dargin in the 1970s Ben Hall television series, appeared as Harry Edwards in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and latterly cameoing in True History of the Kelly Gang as a waiter. He leaves behind a proud legacy on stage and screen as well as his important role in the indigenous community as an Elder and activist.

Uncle Jack Charles as Billy Dargin in Ben Hall [Source]

Thunderbolt documentary delayed

The makers of a long anticipated documentary on Frederick Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, have regretfully announced that their aim of completing the film for this year’s Thunderbolt festival has fallen down.

Posting to their Facebook page, they stated:

But we just can’t meet our self imposed deadline of getting the doco finished for the 2022 Thunderbolt Festival towards the end of October. Fingers crossed we can get it finished for 2023, but we’re not making any more promises. It will happen when it happens. We hope you’ll stick with us.

Via Facebook

The team had previously updated on their progress in May 2021 and their decision to change the angle they were approaching with the film. It was originally pitched as a film exploring the popular conspiracy theory that Ward had not been killed in 1870, but will now focus more on the journey the filmmakers undertook in trying to find the truth. This was a decision made after the optimistic release year of 2020 was impacted by the pandemic. While a revised release date is yet to be confirmed, it is likely that it will be released in 2023.

Starlight’s artwork

Author and historian Jane Smith recently shared a post about some artworks discovered by the National Art School by Frank Pearson, aka Captain Starlight.

Along with a photograph of herself with the paintings, Smith wrote:

Paintings by Captain Starlight recently came to light and are now on display at the wonderful ‘Captivate’ exhibition at the [National Art School] , celebrating its centenary. It’s also 200 years since they started building Darlinghurst Gaol, which has housed the art school since 1922. Fascinating history! It was a privilege to be at the opening last night.

Via Facebook

The paintings are part of an exhibition that comprises a range of artworks found in a scrapbook owned the former prison governor Sir John Cecil Read that was donated to the art school that now occupies the former Darlinghurst Gaol where many of the most notorious bushrangers did time or were executed.

Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/art-and-design/thrilling-gift-reveals-artistic-side-of-killers-and-bushrangers-20220902-p5bf0l.html

Jingo was Born in the Slum Exhibition

From 1 October 2022 to 4 March 2023, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of Matthew Thorne’s photographs from the making of True History of the Kelly Gang in its Nolan Gallery, alongside many of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings.

The CMAG describes the collection as, “a darkly powerful exhibition reflecting on the bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang’s exploits in late 1870s Australia and the enduring legacy of the Kelly myth in contemporary culture.”

The exhibition will also include some of the costumes worn in the 2019 film, designed by Alice Babidge.

The Kelly Gang at Glenrowan, Dandenong Rainforest, Victoria, 2018. By Matthew Thorne

Read more: http://www.cmag.com.au/exhibitions/mathew-thorne-jingo-was-born-in-the-slum

Bushranging Gazette #19

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Victorian Bushrangers at Geelong Gaol

On 7 August, A Guide to Australian Bushranging‘s Aidan Phelan gave a presentation at the Old Geelong Gaol about Victorian bushrangers. The talk ranged from an introduction to bushrangers to the lives and careers of several notable Victorian outlaws.

Among the stories told during the presentation were those of Bradley and O’Connor, Captain Melville, Harry Power and Thomas Menard. Menard has a special connection to the gaol as he was hanged there for murder and was buried in the grounds.

The event was well received and the venue proved to be suitably atmospheric, with replicas of the death masks of Thomas Menard, Ned Kelly and Captain Moonlite adding to the effect.

There is a strong probability that there will be more such presentations in the gaol, as there are plenty more stories to explore.

Aidan Phelan with replicas of the death masks of Thomas Menard, Ned Kelly and Captain Moonlite.

The Crisis of Captain Moonlite

On 23 August Dr. Matthew Grubits presented an online seminar conducted via Zoom for Melbourne Irish Studies Seminars on Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite. The focus of the talk was predominantly on Scott’s religiosity and faith, and how this influenced his behaviour throughout his life.

Grubits drew particular attention to Scott’s most highly valued traits, those being truthfulness, honour and manliness and how the philosophy of “Muscular Christianity” influenced his beliefs. This also came into play when discussing Scott’s most intimate relationship, being the one between himself and James Nesbitt. Grubits pointed to Scott’s unwavering Christianity and his profound grief as key factors in why Scott wrote about Nesbitt posthumously with such passion, imbuing him with the very traits he himself valued above all others. It was suggested that this may potentially be a more accurate way to contextualise their relationship and the way Scott expressed his feelings about it than a perspective that indicates it being sexual in nature, when looked at in the broader context of Scott’s life.

While the 1869 Egerton bank robbery and Scott’s subsequent running afoul of the law were covered, much of this was only touched upon due to time constraints. The emphasis was decidedly on Scott’s personality and beliefs, and less on his bushranging, which is an approach rarely taken when discussing the infamous former lay reader.

The seminar proved to be an enlightening and engaging exploration of Scott’s life and psyche that raised many questions that will hopefully be answered when Grubits manages to secure a publisher for his doctoral thesis. It is an indicator of very exciting things to come. Watch this space.

New Jessie Hickman book brings the Lady Bushranger to a new audience

With so much emphasis in recent years having been put on highlighting the stories of female bushrangers, and especially educating children about notable women in history, it seems odd that it has taken so long for the “Lady Bushranger” to get her own children’s book.

Wild Bush Days is a new children’s book from MidnightSun Publishing, written by Penny Harrison and illustrated by Virginia Gray that introduces you for readers to the bold Jessie Hickman through the eyes of two young adventurers. The book is aimed at three to six year-olds and features many charming, full colour illustrations.

Jessie Hickman was Australia’s bold, but little-known, Lady Bushranger. Raised in the circus during the early 1900s, she later turned to a life of crime and cattle hustling. She used her skills as a rough-rider and tightrope walker to elude police, often hiding in a cave, deep in the mountains.

Told through the eyes of two young, modern-day explorers who go looking for the bushranger’s cave, Wild Bush Days conjures the spirit of adventure, from a time when girls weren’t expected to be daring.

(Official blurb)

Wild Bush Days is now available from most book retailers.

The Legend of Ben Hall on Amazon Prime

Fans of Matthew Holmes’ 2017 bushranger epic, The Legend of Ben Hall, can now rent or buy the film to stream on Amazon Prime.

The film’s shift to streaming makes it accessible to an even larger audience, with DVD and Blu-Ray editions of the film having been out of print for several years.

While the film was shown on Australian free-to-air television on Channel Nine in 2019, the commercial broadcaster has not aired it since. The Legend of Ben Hall has also been available on other services, such as YouTube and HBO Europe, with every distribution to a new platform boosting exposure for the epic indie film.

Director Matthew Holmes is about to embark on a new project, Fear Below, a Jazz Era crime flick featuring a fearsome bullshark. It is his second feature since The Legend of Ben Hall, with upcoming thriller The Cost due to premiere in early December of this year. In the intervening years he has launched several unsuccessful efforts to gain funding for films about Ned Kelly and the Glenrowan siege, Frank Gardiner, John Vane, and a streaming series about bushranging in Victoria and New South Wales during the 1860s through to 1880.

Aussie Icons by Ian Coate

The keen-eyed may have seen garden sculptures popping up in Woolworths and Bunnings stores recently including a platypus wearing a very familiar suit of armour. Bushranger Platypus is part of a series of garden statues called Dinkum Aussie Icons designed by Australian artist Ian Coate.

Other characters include Convict Crocodile, Swaggie Koala, Nurse Possum and Digger Wombat. Each is a cartoony Australian animal dressed like a figure from Australian culture or history. They are designed to educate and amuse, encouraging children to take an interest in Australian culture and nature.

I am delighted to announce the ‘DINKUM AUSSIE’ icons I designed have finally hit the shelves at Bunnings and Woolworths. We have just launched a website and Facebook page dedicated to these little Aussie characters and I would love for you to be the first to follow our Dinkum Aussie Page and join us for some ridgy-didge fun.

Ian Coate (via Facebook)

You can read more at Ian’s website: https://iancoate.com/aussieicons.html

Ned Kelly on Super History

While there is certainly no shortage of videos about Ned Kelly on YouTube, precious few could be said to be both informative and hilarious. Brian Pilchard recently released a short documentary from his ongoing Super History series on his YouTube channel, OK Champ, where he covers the Kelly story with an imaginative mash-up of dodgy costumes, excessive amounts of cardboard, green screen, pop culture references and hilariously bizarre re-enactments.

The Kellys in action

You can watch the video below:

A Fateful September Day by Julia Dąbrowska

The following is a piece penned by long-time follower of A Guide to Australian Bushranging (and contributor) from Poland Julia Dąbrowska in commemoration of the death of Jack Donahoe who was shot in a stand off this day in 1830. — AP

The setting sun shines through the branches of gum trees covered with thick leaves. The fallen twigs crackle under the boot heels of the bushrangers and the hooves of a packhorse. Jack Donahue walks at the head of the gang. He gazes at his mates, William Webber and John Walmsley, and at a horse carrying several sacks. Suddenly, John Walmsley stops, pointing at something.

“It’s a campfire,” he said. They have seen campfires in the bush many times before, so they didn’t pay any special attention to it.

Little do they know that the campfire is in the police camp. Jack’s anxiety is increasing. He realises that the policemen are following him and his gang.

He stands, waving his hat, shouting, “Come on, you bloody bastards! We are ready to fight you all!”

The bushrangers decide to abandon the packhorse and seek some hideout. The police party and the bushrangers were less than hundred yards apart from each other. A sound of shooting breaks the silence of the bush. The first shot finds its mark in the tree Webber hides behind. Jack continues to tease the policemen, encouraging his gang members to fight and not surrender. It’s getting increasingly darker. John Muckleston, the best marksman in the police party, notices the head of Jack Donahue, protruding from behind a tree. Not wanting to wait anymore, the trooper squeezes the trigger. One ball hits Jack Donahue in the back of the neck, another one in his left temple. Jack falls, shaking, dropping his weapon upon the ground. Blood stains his flaxen hair and white shirt. William Webber and John Walmsley decide to run away.

It’s completely dark now. Jack Donahue lay on the ground, shivering, barely breathing, with  his hair sticky with drying blood. Yes, he chose death in a battle over surrendering to the authorities. This is the death that any true Irishman would like to receive.

Illustration by Julia Dąbrowska


Conservators at Work

A photograph shared recently by the State Library Victoria shows a team of conservators working on the specialised display case for Ned Kelly’s armour.

Times have certainly changed since the days when the armour was displayed in the open on an old cockatoo perch in the old Melbourne Aquarium, and when it was worn as a costume during Australia Day parades.

The new case also contains Ned’s boot and a rifle attributed to him, and is climate controlled to protect the items from moisture and a risk of oxidisation. The armour is also occasionally removed for cleaning by the conservation team to remove any rust or decay.

Image via State Library Victoria

Bushranging Gazette #18

Monday, 1 August 2022

Vale Alan Crichton

In July the Kelly world bid farewell to Alan Crichton, a prominent and outspoken member of the community and author. Crichton had been a frequent contributor to the Ironoutlaw website, writing for a series called Keep Ya Powder Dry.

Crichton, a noted poet, published a book of verse about the Kelly Gang titled Bound for Judgement, as well as presenting at several events including the Greta Heritage Weekend. He also penned a novel set in Kelly Country entitled Far Beyond the Falls that entwines aspects of the Kellystory into its narrative.

Brad Webb of Ironoutlaw wrote the following to commemorate Crichton:

Today we say our goodbyes to a very special friend – Alan Crichton. In 2008, I had the pleasure of publishing his novel ‘Far Beyond The Falls’, but Alan was better known around the Kelly world for his poetry and his semi-regular IronOutlaw column ‘Keep Ya Powder Dry’ where he shone an extremely bright light on the serious and the ridiculous in equal measure. Alan’s sharp wit and eye for detail coupled with his ability to enjoy himself (no matter what the circumstances) made this fellow a joy to be around. We shared many an hour drinking and talking about the contemplative and the balderdash in equal measures. If I knew Alan was going to a particular Kelly event it usually convinced me to join in as well. He was that much fun to be around. Quick to laugh at and with, he could give shit and take it with ease. He was a dear mate and a friend to many. My thoughts go out to Ros and the family. Alan Crichton, you will be sorely missed, my comrade-in-arms…

Brad Webb [Source]
Alan Crichton [via Ned Kelly: Australian Ironoutlaw Facebook page]

Victorian Bushrangers at Geelong Gaol

On 7 August, Aidan Phelan will be giving a talk at the old Geelong Gaol about some of Victoria’s intriguing bushranger stories. It will be a mixed bag of familiar names like Harry Power and the Kelly Gang, along with more obscure ones like Thomas Menard, and Bradley and O’Connor.

Tickets are available online here: https://fareharbor.com/embeds/book/twistedhistory/items/385479/calendar/2022/08/?flow=161305&full-items=yes

Commemorating the Eugowra heist

With 2022 marking 160 years since Frank Gardiner’s legendary gold heist, several publications ran an article about the event. The robbery was one of the largest gold heists on Australian history and has been the subject of numerous books and other media.

The gang of bushrangers, dressed in red serge shirts and red night caps and with blackened faces, hid behind the big boulder and other rocks, waiting for the approach of the Gold Escort Coach on this late winter’s afternoon.

Read more here: https://www.forbesadvocate.com.au/story/7781630/biggest-gold-robbery-in-australian-history-160-years-on-from-escort-rock/

Hanging Ned Kelly

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.

Affirm Publishing

Hanging Ned Kelly looks at the life and times, crimes and demise of Australia’s most famous anti-hero from a new perspective: that of the ‘rogue and vagabond’ who finally put the noose around his neck. Here, 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 deranged hangmen paid to execute convicted men and women – some of them innocent or unfairly condemned – in Melbourne before it was marvelous.

Hanging Ned Kelly is due for release in September 2022.

Mystery Road: Origin

Viewers of the ABC crime drama Mystery Road: Origin would have quickly found the many references to Ned Kelly in the series. From a John Williamson track playing in the background during a pub scene to various quotation, the keen observer had much to find. One of the key cast members is Steve Bisley, who famously portrayed Joe Byrne in The Last Outlaw in 1980, although this time he’s on the other side of the law. Of course, the most obvious reference was in the fact that the main antagonists wore Ned Kelly masks while committing crimes.

The Kelly Gang strikes again in Mystery Road: Origin.

This is not the first time nods to Ned have been used in film and television to highlight a theme, but it is the most on the nose in recent memory.

New Releases

Now available from Australian Bushranging are two new releases from Aidan Phelan: Glenrowan- definitive edition and Aaron Sherritt: Persona non Grata.

Glenrowan tells the story of the last months of the Kelly outbreak, culminating in the deadly siege at Glenrowan. Based on detailed historical research, it weaves the real with the imagined to fill the gaps in the record in a way that is both enlightening and engaging. This new edition features revised and expanded text, new illustrations and additional material not included in the first edition.

Aaron Sherritt: Persona non Grata is the first book dedicated to the story of Aaron Sherritt, who was one of the Kelly Gang’s greatest supporters until he became their final victim. This book focuses on Aaron’s character, his role in the Kelly outbreak and what led to his demise at the hands of his best friend and challenges the long held beliefs about who he was.

Both titles are available as print-on-demand and eBook through various online retailers including Booktopia, Dymocks, Book Depository, The Nile, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble.

This month on A Guide to Australian Bushranging

The forgotten story of Thomas Menard, the American-born bushranger who went on the run after committing murder in Warrnambool, and ended up on the gallows at Geelong Gaol.

Bushranging Gazette #17

Friday, 1 July 2022

Vale Tommy Dysart

Scottish-Australian actor Tommy Dysart has passed away. Some bushranger enthusiasts may remember him from brief appearances in Ben Hall and The Last Outlaw or as the mysterious wizard in the Glenrowan animated theatre.

Dysart had a long and varied career in film and television, but was most beloved for his appearances in advertisements for the Yellow Pages phone directory and Don Smallgoods.

Read more here: https://7news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/goggomobil-yellow-pages-and-prisoner-actor-tommy-dysart-dies-c-7181082

Kate Kelly exhibition

Rebecca Wilson, painter and author of the recent Kate Kelly book, is exhibiting her work this month. The exhibition will be hosted at the Parkes Library on 15 July, Wilson will be doing a talk for the opening night event on Monday 4 July. Admission to the talk is a gold coin donation with RSVP required in advance for catering purposes Entry to see the exhibition is free.

Read more here: https://artsoutwest.org.au/events/the-kate-kelly-collection/

Eliza Reilly Hops On The Anti-Ned Bandwagon

Eliza Reilly, author of Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History, has made her views on Ned Kelly abundantly clear in a piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and in an interview on ABC Radio. Her dismal assessment of Ned as a “tin-hat weirdo” whose story has been done to death extends to those who have a fascination with him. In her opinion piece, Reilly states that a more important historical figure is Grace Tame who she refers to as a “Rebel, game changer, outlaw. This sheila is the real deal.”

If you would like to read Reilly’s take on Ned you can do so here: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/celebrity/enough-of-this-tin-hat-weirdo-australia-needs-a-new-cultural-hero-20220620-p5av39.html

The Jones Family Meets Ned Kelly

The Yarrawonga Chronicle published a piece this month about a reputed link between the Kelly Gang and the Jones family at Mulwala.

The article explains that as the story goes the bushrangers visited Mary Jones’ saloon near Mulwala cemetery while on their way to Jerilderie. They bought drinks and chaff and miraculously avoided detection by the police. They also reputedly met Mrs. Jones’ daughter the next day and Ned yelled at Steve for frightening the girl after he tried to steal her horse.

Read more here: https://www.sheppnews.com.au/news/the-jones-family-meets-ned-kelly/

New Edition of Glenrowan Released

Glenrowan, Definitive Edition, launched on 28 June in conjunction with the anniversary of the Glenrowan siege. The new version of the book includes revised and expanded text, new illustrations and bonus material, bringing the page count to just under six hundred.

The book will be available online as a print-on-demand title worldwide. For more information you can go to glenrowanthenovel.com or the Facebook page Glenrowan – by Aidan Phelan.


Punishment Hood

Photography by Aidan Phelan

Punishment hood: In the mid to late colonial period prisoners were often made to wear hoods that covered their face to prevent other inmates from recognising them. This was combined with absolute silence, being housed in individual cells, and restricted exercise and labour to force the prisoners to be trapped with their conscience and contemplate the error of their ways.
Prisoners were made to communicate with warders using sign language, and often times the corridors would be carpeted to muffle the sound of the warders footsteps. In more extreme cases, such as seen at the Port Arthur separate prison, the isolation and silence induced madness.
This example is on display at Old Melbourne Gaol.

Bushranging Gazette #16

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Eugowra Rocks anniversary

15 June marks 160 years since the Eugowra Rocks heist by Frank Gardiner and his gang. The event remains one of Australia’s most notorious and successful robberies.

You can read more about the event here: https://www.goldtrails.com.au/gold-heritage/bushrangers/the-escort-rock-robbery-story/

Red by Felicity McLean

On 18 May HarperCollins publishers, through their 4th Estate imprint, launched a new novel by Australian author Felicity McLean simply titled Red. The book is, in the words of the publishers:

…a spirited and striking contemporary retelling of the Ned Kelly story.

The story is set in New South Wales in the 1990s and follows a female protagonist, Ruby “Red” McCoy, as she falls foul of the law – or, rather, as the law’s vendetta against her family turns its focus onto her.

While the Kelly story provides a vague framework for the story, this approach gender-swaps the outlaw and drags the story into a setting that the target audience will be able to relate to. No doubt the book will employ the “blackly comic” sensibilities of her debut, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone, a modern reimagining of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The book has gained a very positive write-up from Brendan Cowell, writer/director of The Outlaw Michael Howe, who states:

This electrifying and unique revamp of the Ned Kelly myth will leave you breathless. The accumulative prose of rusted car doors and sliding suburban loyalties make way for an unforgettable female protagonist who is as fearsome as her life is young. Winton meets Tarantino in Woy Woy and it all makes perfect sense to me.

Brendan Cowell

For more information, you can visit the HarperCollins website here.

Ned Kelly Game on Steam

Indie Game developers Tobop Productions have a new FPS (first person shooter) game coming to Steam on 28 June 2022 titled, Ned Kelly: Armoured Outlaw. The game is an alternative reality that allows the player to be Ned Kelly and fight their way out of the siege of Glenrowan.

A screenshot of the gameplay for Ned Kelly: Armoured Outlaw [via tobop.itch.io]

The single-player game will be available for Windows and MacOS, and tasks the player with getting the Kelly Gang from Glenrowan to Melbourne. While it is not slavish to history, effort has been made to make the characters, buildings and weapons period accurate.

Find out more here and here.

Lilydale’s Boy Bushranger

Sue Thompson has penned a short piece for the Star Mail wherein she introduces readers to the boy bushranger William Parsons. Though the article does not go into any considerable detail, it gives readers a flavour of the story. There is as much focus given to Redmond Barry (incorrectly named as “Edmond” in the article) as to Parsons, in particular a quote from Barry to Parsons from his trial:

It is almost incredible that you, with arms in your hands, should have stuck up three men. You could scarcely know how to use them; indeed you did wound yourself, and nearly blew your own brains out. It is almost incredible crimes like this should occur in our neighbourhood, and it would be laughable were it not lamentable.

Redmond Barry

Read more here.

Tom Wright Talks Captain Thunderbolt on ABC Radio

On the 25 May 2022 edition of Self-Improvement Wednesday hosted by Richard Glover, Tom Wright was interviewed about the life and bushranging career of Fred Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt. Wright, the artistic director of the Belvoir Theatre, spoke about the infamous outlaw on the anniversary of his death, with particular emphasis on the cultural impact of the story.

Listen to the interview here.

Ned Kelly Cancelled

The Beetoota Advocate, a satirical news website, recently poked fun at both Ned Kelly and “cancel culture” in an article entitled Ned Kelly Cancelled After Discovery Of Controversial Anti-Police Tweets from 1875. The tongue-in-cheek article suggests that Kelly had made a series of anti-police Tweets in the 1870s that were uncovered by “internet sleuths”, causing quite a stir.

At the time of writing there has been no formal statement from Kelly’s PR team which is primarily made up of the type of volunteers who might throw a chair at you if you mention that Kelly killed police officers as well.

The Beetoota Advocate

Read the article here.

Bushranging Gazette #15

Sunday, 1 May 2022

End of an Era at Glenrowan

Chris and Rod Gerrett, who have owned and operated Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan for more than thirty-five years are calling it a day and handing the reins over to new owners.

The shop, which includes a small museum and replica of the Kelly family’s house at Greta, has been a mainstay of Glenrowan and is located a stone’s throw from the Big Ned statue. Thousands of visitors have enjoyed the attraction, and hopefully will continue to do so under its new proprietors, Michelle Coad & Douglas Stoneman, for many years to come.

Some of the displays in the museum. [Source]

Representatives for the defunct Ned Kelly Vault took to Facebook to eulogise the end of an era.

Chris and Rod will be greatly missed by many making the pilgrimage up and down the Hume. It really is the end of an era! We wish them every happiness in their retirement.

The Ned Kelly Vault [Via Facebook]

Read more: https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/property/35-gladstone-street-glenrowan-vic-3675-2013619212


The Bushranger Letter

At Narryna, the 1830s merchant’s house at Battery Point in Tasmania, a special presentation will be held on May 5th titled “The Bushranger Letter”. The details are being kept under wraps, but the event is being promoted as an evening of “storytelling and facts”.

Secrets of the collection Narryna presents our Secrets of the Collection series. We will be hosting a series of talks on items that are normally hidden away behind the doors of Narryna. The first one is on the curious story of ‘The Bushranger’s Letter’.

Official Press Release

The event will run from 6:00pm until 8:00pm. Tickets start at $10 and include entry to the museum; bookings preferred.

Book your ticket here: https://www.narryna.com.au/shop

The Drover’s Wife

Films have had a hard time during the pandemic due to audiences not being able to visit cinemas, and Australia’s already embattled offerings have struggled. So it was with Leah Purcell’s feature film The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, a historical epic inspired by Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife, which depicts the hardships of pioneer women who were left behind while their husbands would travel on musters.

Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson [Source]

Leah Purcell has previously adapted the reimagined story into a stage play, which was then adapted by her into a novel. It greatly expands on the Lawson text by weaving in a troubled pregnancy, murder, fugitives and emphasis on the relationship between whites and Aboriginals.

Originally slated for a 2021 release to coincide with Purcell’s novel, the pandemic saw the film, which has had a positive reception at festivals and in early reviews, pushed back until this year. In April Leah Purcell was awarded the Chauvel award at the Gold Coast Film Festival’s Screen Industry Gala Awards.

“As a writer I love hanging things on history. These are my family’s stories. Molly Johnson was my mother, my grandmother, me, my aunties.” [Source]

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson will hit Australian cinemas on 5 May.


Thomas Jeffries at George Town

…So I had the pleasure of seeing my lads go to Port Macquarie, while the choice was given to me to come here on the Derwent. This I chose and to my sorrow I landed at George Town…

Thomas Jeffries, 1826

While stationed at the George Town convict barracks in 1822, Thomas Jeffries (or Jeffrey) gained the rank of constable. This gave him a level of authority over other convicts and he would later brag that there were no men under his watch that were flogged or had escaped.

Thomas Jeffries [illustrated by Aidan Phelan]

His time as constable came to a dramatic end after he tried to stab the chief constable in a drunken rage upon being caught attempting to chip through a wall with a pickaxe.

He was stripped of his privileges and sentenced to be sent to Macquarie Harbour, but instead was placed on a work party, from which he absconded in June 1825.

George Town, Tasmania [photographed by Aidan Phelan]

Escapes at Eaglehawk Neck

Many prisoners attempted escape from Port Arthur, but not many succeeded — and most who made it as far as Eaglehawk Neck were soon found naked, starving and hopelessly lost only days later. The isthmus connected the Tasman Peninsula to the Forestier Peninsula, which in turn connected to the Tasmanian mainland. Across the breadth of Eaglehawk Neck was a line of dogs that were chained to their kennels and illuminated at night by lamps. The dogs had such fun names as Caesar, Ajax, Achilles, Ugly Mug, Jowler, Tear’em and Muzzle’em. They were kept tethered close enough that their noses almost touched, so that nobody could pass between. The area under the lamps were covered in white shells to increase the visibility of the dogline.

Martin Cash swam across this stretch of water – Eaglehawk Bay – to make good his escape from Port Arthur. He was recaptured three days later, but it was not his last attempt. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

On one side of the neck is Eaglehawk Bay, which is a much narrower corridor where the dogline extended onto a pair of wooden pontoons in the water. On the opposite side is Pirates Bay, thus named for its connection to a gang of convict bolters who stole a schooner, that included Bob Greenhill and Matthew Travers who would later escape from Macquarie Harbour with Alexander Pearce.

The site of the dogline is now marked by a bronze statue of one of the dogs and its kennel. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

This is also where Martin Cash tried to escape a second time, accompanied by Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones on Boxing Day 1842. After escaping from their jobs at the quarry at Port Arthur, they hid in the bush for three days before continuing to Eaglehawk Neck. They stripped nude and deliberately swam across on the opposite side of the isthmus to where dogs had been stationed on pontoons. They lost their bundles in the waves and had to continue through the bush naked and unarmed, until they found a hut for a convict work party where they got clothes, supplies and weapons.

Pirates Bay, where the dogs on the beach nowadays are far friendlier. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

On 28 December 1852 Andrew Kelly and James Dalton managed to survive the swim across the neck. Four fellow escapees, however, either drowned or were taken by sharks. The pair continued on, acquiring a shotgun from a man named Reardon then continued to Prosser’s Plains (Buckland). They would subsequently manage to move through Tasmania, bushranging along the way, then pirate their way across Bass Strait only to be apprehended in Melbourne.

Bushranging Gazette #14

Friday, 1 April 2022

Moondyne Festival 2022

The annual Moondyne Festival in Toodyay, Western Australia, is all set to kick off on Sunday 1 May this year. The festival, named for local bushranger Joseph Bolitho “Moondyne Joe” Johns, features a range of activities and attractions, as well as reenactments of some of the infamous bushranger’s escapades.

Visitors are encouraged to dress in period costume when they attend, and scheduled attractions include music performances, a street parade, Morris dancing, a moustache competition, a photo room, sheep dog demonstrations, camel rides, and a “floozy” competition. The events and attractions will be spread around town, encouraging visitors to explore.

For more information about the festival, including a programme, you can visit the website: https://moondynefestival.com.au/

Douglas Stewart’s Ned Kelly

The Conversation has published an insightful article by Julian Meyrick about Douglas Stewart’s 1940s play Ned Kelly. The article gives a background to the play as well as Meyrick’s own observations regarding Australians’ attitude to their own history, and how the play embodies this through its use of language and theatrical techniques.

In 1997, I directed Ned Kelly in one of its few professional productions. Spruiking the show to audiences, I heard many times that people “already knew the story”. But when I asked what they knew, they were often at a loss to give even the basic facts. They felt they knew the Kelly story, but they did not. This combination of belief the past is known, and actual ignorance of it, fuels Australia’s “history wars”. Stewart’s play thus falls into a historical black hole as well as a theatrical one. A nation dismissive of its past dramatic forms is also dismissive of its past. Reclaiming Ned Kelly is therefore about more than its disinterment from the sarcophagus of neglected plays; it is an act of intellectual recovery whereby Australian history is made available as a dramatic resource, and drama is validated as a mode of historical inquiry.

Julian Meyrick

The article is an edited extract from the book Australia in 50 Plays, which was launched on 3 March.

You can read the full article here: https://theconversation.com/ambiguity-and-amorality-is-douglas-stewarts-ned-kelly-one-of-australias-great-forgotten-plays-179458

Mary Ann Bugg, the little known Australian bushranger

On ABC Radio program Night Life with Philip Clarke, the host interviewed historian Carol Baxter, author of Thunderbolt and his Lady, about Australia’s most famous female bushranger, Mary Ann Bugg.

Baxter’s work on the Thunderbolt story has been prominent over the years since her book was first released in 2011, in particular her championing of the story of Mary Ann Bugg. In the interview, Baxter discusses Bugg’s background and relationship with Frederick Ward and her work in researching the history.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nightlife/bugg/13818160

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one

Spectator Australia have published an opinion article by Ross Eastgate about the difficulties of police life, specifically in reference to the dangers and difficulties that officers are put in as a matter of course, and the need for officers to be able to defend themselves – with lethal force if necessary. Specific mention is made of the shootings at Stringybark Creek, amongst more modern examples, particularly the current issue of Constable Zachary Rolfe in the Northern Territory. Being an opinion piece, the views stated therein will not appeal to all.

On October 25, 1878, the criminal Ned Kelly and his gang ambushed four armed Victorian police at Stringybark Creek. Three, of Irish descent like Kelly, were murdered, resulting in the Kelly gang being declared outlaws to be hunted until death or capture. After nearly 150 years the murders still arouse strong emotions around nearby Mansfield among the surviving families and in the Victorian Police.

Ross Eastgate

You can read the full article here: https://www.spectator.com.au/2022/03/a-policemans-lot-is-not-a-happy-one/

Bushrangers of the Sydney Region

On ABC Radio’s Self Improvement Wednesday with Richard Glover from 9 March, Grace Karskens, Emeritus Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, discusses some of the New South Wales bushrangers that operated around the Sydney region in the early years of the settlement.

Karskens gives a good introduction to the early history of bushranging in New South Wales, and discusses the relationships between some early bushrangers and indigenous peoples, and the convict era. Bushrangers discussed include William Geary, the McNamara Gang, John Armstrong, and Jack Donahoe (The Wild Colonial Boy).

You can listen to the podcast here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/self-improvement-wednesday/siw-sydneys-bushrangers/13789430

Grantlee Kieza on the Queensland Native Police

The Daily Mail in the UK have interviewed author Grantlee Kieza about his new book The Kelly Hunters, and focused on the Queensland Native Police that were employed to capture the Kelly Gang. The article gives a good overview of the story of the trackers, who are a prominent feature of Kieza’s new release, which is about the police who pursued Ned Kelly.

They could distinguish even between the sort of boot heels the gang were wearing, […] There’s talk of them having found a sweat smudge from someone who had put their hand on a branch hours before. Uncanny kind of tracking abilities. […] They had the best weapons and they knew how to use them as well, Certainly Ned Kelly feared what they could do. It’s significant that as soon as they arrived he never did another bank robbery. He didn’t really show himself publicly anywhere until the siege of Glenrowan.

Grantlee Kieza

You can read the full article here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10634145/Ned-Kelly-feared-six-Aboriginal-trackers-massacred-people.html

New websites focus on Tasmanian bushranging legends

Two new websites have been launched by Aidan Phelan and Georgina Stones to focus on the history around Matthew Brady and Cash and Company. These sites will host archival material as well as original work that distills the research into easily digested articles on key events, people and places.

Martin Cash and Company, co-authored by Phelan and Stones, also has a Facebook page and Instagram account to act as companions to the core website. The material mainly concentrates on the three outlaws, Cash, Jones and Kavanagh, but will also provide insights into the pursuers, victims, friends and lovers of the trio.

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land is singly authored by Phelan and takes much the same approach to the material. While in its infancy still, it is hoped to be a one-stop shop for people who wish to learn more about Brady’s story, with plans for a book based on the research to come soon.

If you would like to check out these websites, you can follow the links below.

Martin Cash and Company —
Website: https://martincashandcompany.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martincashandco/
Instagram: @martincash_and_company

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land —
Website: https://matthewbradybushranger.wordpress.com/


The Deaf Bushranger

Bushrangers with disabilities were not very common, apart from missing fingers, crippled hands or habitual limping caused by poorly healed broken legs. Yet, it was not unheard of for more significant disabilities to be present, such as in the case of William Brown, one of Matthew Brady’s gang, who was deaf.

Details of his deafness are almost non-existent; it seems likely that it could have been acquired through some form of trauma prior to becoming a convict, but is just as likely to have been congenital. This significant setback doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted on his ability to perform crimes with the rest of the gang, yet it must have required a considerable level of adjustment for the others to be able to include him in their operations given how important active communication and detection of approaching threats were to their survival. It was certainly significant enough to warrant mention in several contemporary reports about the gang’s activities.

He was described in the runaways list as follows:Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

229. Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

Source: “RUNAWAY NOTICE.” The Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833) 26 November 1825: 1
‘William Brown’, by Thomas Bock [Courtesy: State Library of New South Wales, FL1077005 – DL PX 5; IE1076928]