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]

Bushranging Gazette #12

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Georgina Stones launches new Joe Byrne book

Historian and author behind An Outlaw’s Journal, Georgina Stones, has written another book detailing an overlooked part of the outlaw’s life.

Ah Nam tells the story of an incident in Byrne’s adolescence when he accompanied a Chinese man, the titular Ah Nam, and became involved in a brawl. Stones has not only crafted a narrative from the available evidence, fully illustrated with original drawings by Aidan Phelan, but has included notes, historical imagery and essays detailing her research, which provided the basis for the narrative. She also incorporates the oft forgotten history of the old Spring Creek camp in Beechworth and its inhabitants – particularly the prostitutes who worked under the infamous madam, Sarah Payne.

Ah Nam will be published through Ingram Spark and Australian Bushranging, and will be available to purchase in a hardcover or eBook format from retailers such as Booktopia, Angus and Robertson, and Barnes and Noble. The book launches on 3 February 2022.

Ah Nam with a Chinese lion in Beechworth [Via Joseph Byrne: The Untold History on Facebook]

Grantlee Kieza returns to the Kelly story

On 30 March, 2022, Grantlee Kieza’s new book The Kelly Hunters will be released. The book, a follow-up to his popular 2018 release Mrs. Kelly, which nabs its title from a Frank Clune book, focuses on the police pursuit of the Kelly Gang.

The publisher, Harper Collins, describes the book as:

…a fascinating and compelling account of the other side of the legendary Kelly story.

Via: Harper Collins

Kieza’s book will be in fierce competition with another book on the Kelly police pursuit, David Dufty’s Nabbing Ned Kelly, which Is also slated for a March release through Allen and Unwin. Both books look set to change the way the Kelly story is discussed for the foreseeable future and provide a welcome counterpoint to the oversaturated library of books that focus on Ned Kelly.

Mad Dog Morgan gets a new home release in UK and US

While Philippe Mora’s 1976 bushranger epic, Mad Dog Morgan, has had multiple DVD and Blu-ray releases here in Australia, international film buffs and fans of the movie have missed out. Now, thanks to Indicator, the movie is getting a new limited edition release for the US and UK markets.

Starring legendary American actor Dennis Hopper and the late David Dalaithngu, Mad Dog Morgan tells the story of the infamous bushranger from his time on the Victorian goldfields to his gruesome demise. Despite superficially veering from the history in some aspects, it remains one of the most authentic bushranger films to date and is well-loved outside of Australia as a slice of “ozploitation” cinema.

The Indicator release features a restored 4K version of the film by Powerhouse Films, both the shorter UK release version of the film as well as the director’s cut, a poster, and an 80 page book, and is packaged in individually numbered casing. Special features include audio commentaries, an option to listen to the original mono audio, image galleries, original theatrical trailer, documentaries Hopping Mad, That’s Our Mad Dog, Mad Country, and To Shoot a Mad Dog, as well as excerpts from Not Quite Hollywood. Australian fans will recognise many of these special features are already present on the locally produced Umbrella Entertainment release.

The Indicator edition of Mad Dog Morgan is currently available on some websites for pre-order, with an expected release date of 22 March 2022, and will cost approximately $27.99USD.

Kelly at La Mama

From 29 March to 3 April at Melbourne’s famous La Mama theatre, a rendition of Matthew Ryan’s popular play Kelly is set to perform.

The play, which has been performed in a variety of locations with a mix of interpretations, depicts Ned Kelly awaiting his trial and ruminating on what got him there.

Promotional art for Kelly

What sets this interpretation apart is that the role of Ned Kelly is being performed by an actor far removed from the historical Kelly’s ethnic background, which is sure to start much lively conversation.

For more information about the season follow the link: https://www.artshub.com.au/event/kelly-2521311/

Moondyne Joe

Joseph Bolitho Johns was the subject recently of a feature on 9 News. The article focused on his renowned escape from Fremantle Prison, which is undoubtedly his most iconic feat.

You can read the article here: https://www.9news.com.au/national/moondyne-joe-joseph-johns-prison-escape-bushranger-wa-western-australia/3c906343-e438-4932-bc41-5aeb8c0d4df7

The Birdman of Coorong

Once again, the mythical ostrich-riding bushranger of South Australia’s Coorong is the focus of a news piece. This time it is for Farm Online National, written by Chris McLennan.

The article covers the story of the “Birdman” and features relevant quotes from The Meningie Progress Association president. Whether it is true or false is left to the reader’s imagination.

Book Review: The Story of Ned Kelly

A case of “absolutely judge a book by it’s cover”.

In a market so oversaturated with similar (and superior) content, it’s hard to fathom how a book like ‘The Story of Ned Kelly’ by Marie-Ève de Grave can get past the goal keepers of the publishing industry. It is the epitome of style over substance, with a wildly inaccurate and over-simplified “poetic” retelling of the Ned Kelly legend that has less historical accuracy than a Wikipedia entry. The words are accompanied by linocuts that were loosely inspired by Peter Carey’s novel ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’, though I don’t recall any part of that book describing Ned dressed in a bucket and waffle iron as demonstrated by the cover art. It’s nice to flick through and look at the pictures, and Five Mile Press have done a superb job with the printing and materials, but the product is wasted on such a sub-par text when so many better written, better illustrated, and better researched options are available.

I picked this up at Kmart for $12, and I wouldn’t pay any more than that for it. This is the kind of book you’ll find in an opp-shop in 20 years for $2 with a birthday message written on the inside cover.

My recommendation: If you’re looking for a kid’s book on Ned Kelly, leave this one on the shelf and fork out an extra few bucks and get Mark Greenwood’s far better offering, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, or Janeen Brian’s quirky Meet… Ned Kelly. — AP

This month on A Guide to Australian Bushranging

A Bushranger’s Autobiography

Straight from the archives, this serialised account of the life of William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey, is taken from the horse’s mouth.

As he awaited his appointment with the hangman, Westwood dictated his life story to a fellow convict, preserving his own perspectives on his lawless career.

Westwood’s autobiography is a frank and revealing account of a life gone astray, and the brutality of life in Her Majesty’s penal colonies.