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.
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.
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.
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.
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.