What others said
Like our document section, it would be impossible to catalogue every writer or historian’s view on the Kelly uprising. However, there are a number of exceptions which stand out from the maddening crowd. In this section you will find some enlightened thoughts on Ned and his Gang by the likes of Manning Clark as well as interesting antidotes and accolades from scholars, intellectuals, and lay-men.
Major General Sir John Monash
It was 1879 and the scene was the Jerilderie Bank of New South Wales robbery. One unnoticed spectator on that Monday was a Jerilderie storekeeper’s son on the last day of Christmas holidays from Scotch College, Melbourne. The storekeeper was Mr Louis Monash, his son was John Monash. In the next century John was to become one of Australia’s greatest statesman and most distinguished generals.
Looking back through fifty remarkable years, Sir John Monash told a journalist that, as a small boy of thirteen, he sat on his father’s verandah while the outlaws collected their prisoners: Sir John says that he has never been so overawed in his life as when the redoubtable bushranger spoke a few words to him, and for many a month he was the envied hero of his school as ‘the boy who talked to Ned Kelly’.
Professor Manning Clark
Ned Kelly had a remarkable impact on the history of Australia. In his lifetime he left an impression on the minds of people such as John Monash, a bush boy in Jerilderie who rose to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, on J.B. Gribble, the missionary who achieved fame as ‘the blackfellow’s friend’, on Dr Walter Richardson, the father of novelist Henry Handel Richardson, and on Isaac Isaacs, another bush boy who rose to the office of a High Court Judge and Governor-general of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Ned Kelly was a wild ass of a man, snarling, roaring and frothing like a ferocious beast when the tamer entered the cage. Mad Ireland had fashioned a man who consumed his vast gifts in an insensate war on property and on all the props of bourgeois civilisation – the police, the bankers, the squatters, the teachers, the preachers, the railway and the electric telegraph.
Ned Kelly became a legend during his own life, and a contributor to the mythology of the bush – the bush as a cradle of mateship, equality, the emphasis on the masculine virtues of strength, and the belief that the bush life was the cradle of much that was different from other lands, the cradle of the Australian, the cradle of the yearning for the life of the fearless, the free and the bold.
Because he was elevated by the bush people and the cultural nationalists to such an exalted role – and yet, paradoxically, was a man who had murdered three policemen – historians, biographers, poets, playwrights and film script writers have always had difficulty in sorting out the fact from the legend. They have also found it difficult not to take sides – some portraying Ned Kelly as a mad-dog bushranger, and others seeing him with the eye of pity as the victim of his harsh environment.
Charles White spent his life collecting historical materials and writing a four part history of early Australia for the readers of his newspaper, the Bathurst Free Press. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1848 into a religious family. His father was a lay preacher and newspaper proprietor. He moved with his family to Bathurst where his father took over the Bathurst Free Press.
In time, Charles used the paper to publish his history of Early Australia as a serialisation. In 1890 he produced the eighteen part historical account of the Kelly Gang titled the History of Australian Bushranging. While White’s writing is self assured and arrogant, his account was one of the first to acknowledge the important role played by the native troopers from the Queensland Police Force. Charles White died in Randwick, Sydney, in 1922.