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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.[Source]
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)
An empty block of land (04/11/22)
Ned Kelly Waxwork (12/11/22)
The Ned Kelly Death Mask (04/02/22)
Russell Crowe as Harry Power (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.