The Inner History of the Kelly Gang
J.J. Kenneally's 'The Inner History of the Kelly Gang' mightn't
have the grand sweeps of history of Manning Clark, but for passion,
intrigue and historical significance it has few rivals. In 1929,
long before Ned Kelly became the darling of mainstream historians,
Kenneally (grandfather of Melbourne writer and comedian Mary Kenneally)
declared Kelly a hero and the police, judiciary, squatters and government,
Replete with quaint turns of phrase such as 'loaded dice' and 'outrageous
Miscarriage of Justice' to explain the Kelly family's string of
legal transgressions, and drawing heavily on evidence from the damning
1881 Royal Commission into the Kelly outbreak, Kenneally's book
is a stark reminder of how mainstream historians had buried the
real Kelly story.
|The place where the trouble began when Constable Fitzpatrick grabbed young Kate Kelly
Throughout the book are alluring, intricate moments gleaned from
the memory of Kelly's cousin, Tom Lloyd. In Kenneally's world the
oral tradition assumes a privileged status. So privileged that the real facts regardingthe crime that led to Ned's father Red being transported are buried in the anti-British narrative.
With Lloyd as scout
we climb the Beechworth Ranges, cross the Murray and Ovens rivers,
camp under the stars a cooee from the police 'pursuers' and crane
our neck to better hear and understand the words spoken by this
strange collection of recalcitrant farm boys.
|Tthe Kellys would have shared the Petty family's love of Queen and Country. William is buried not far from Tom Lloyd in the Greta cemetery .
Even those who see in Kenneally the partisanship of an Irish Catholic
ally of the Kellys have to admire his courage and his research.
Seldom in history has the judiciary been treated to the accusations
of prejudice saved for judge Redmond Barry. That Barry had been
feted by the establishment for his alleged philanthropy was no impediment
to Kenneally's attack. Quirky in style, Kenneally's book broke the
orthodoxy and flagged the dark secret of Constable Fitzpatrick's
assault on Ned's sister, Kate.
Thankfully, it changed the
writing of Kelly history forever and sent me out back of Greta in
search of the real Ned. So even though it offered only a passing reference to Kelly's masterful polemic, the Jerilderie Letter and provided no direct excerpts, Kenneally's
book is treated like gold in my bookshelf.